Wax paper made with natural vegetable oils is compostable and biodegradable. Choose unbleached wax paper made from soybean or vegetable oil as it will break down naturally in your home compost. Shred the wax paper before placing it in your compost bin to allow it to be broken down by soil bacteria quickly.
Modern wax paper can be coated in paraffin wax which is not suitable for composting. The paraffin wax or petroleum based waxes will leave residue in the soil which can be transferred into your garden and build up over time.
Wax paper is non stick and water resistant but natural waxes will melt in the oven.
Choose an unbleached wax paper like soybean that will break down naturally.
Wax paper can be coated on one or both sides with the oils keeping it non-stick. It is perfect for stopping dough from sticking to your bench when you are rolling it out or to cover food in the refrigerator.
How wax paper is made
Wax paper has been around for centuries and is basically the process of covering paper with a wax. Paper can be bleached or unbleached and a variety of wax coatings can be used. Originally purified beeswax was used to make the wax paper but new coatings are now common including paraffin wax or soybean oil.
Wax paper will reduce moisture loss from foods or to keep foods covered in the fridge including butter or cheeses.
Wax paper should not be used in the oven otherwise the wax will melt off. Parchment is safe to use in the oven as it is heat resistant.
Wax paper can be used in the microwave to stop splatters and keep your microwave clean. It is cheaper than parchment paper and can be easily used to protect kitchen countertops when rolling out dough or making cookies.
How to choose wax paper that is compostable and biodegradable
Choose a wax paper that is unbleached and coated with a natural vegetable oil like soybean. This will have all of the non-stick qualities of wax paper but will break down in a compost pile.
Wax paper can take many months to break down as it will take longer for soil bacteria to break down the oils in the wax but it is biodegradable if you choose a natural paper.
To help the wax paper to break down faster, shred the paper with scissors into small pieces and mix it through the compost with a range of other ingredients.
A very active compost pile will break down wax paper quickly and a hot compost will break it down even faster.
Beeswax wraps will also break down in compost if they have been made with pure beeswax. These can also be shredded with scissor to speed up the process and allowing the soil bacteria to break down the paper across a larger surface area.
Types of wax paper
Bleached wax paper
Bleached paper will look bright and white as the natural paper color has been bleached industrially. This is a common paper available in stores and was always considered a premium product.
Do not put bleached wax paper in your compost as it may contain substances that will make it difficult for soil bacteria to break it down completely.
Unbleached wax paper
Unbleached wax paper is still made from wood pulp but the natural color is left and it will look naturally brown. Whether or not unbleached wax paper is compostable will be dependent on the wax or oil coating.
Paraffin wax covered paper
Petroleum-based paraffin wax is inorganic and is just not suitable for composting or use in your garden. The paraffin wax is difficult for the soil bacteria to break down and larger hydrocarbons can still sit in the soil after many years.
Paraffin wax covered paper will need be added to your regular garbage can and not composted.
How to tell if your wax paper is compostable and biodegradable
Look out for these key points to find out if your wax paper is compostable and biodegradable.
Natural vegetable oils
Choose a wax paper that is coated in a natural wax like soybean or beeswax. These biodegradable waxes will break down quickly. Packing should include the type of wax used in the process and always look for unbleached paper.
The next aspect to look for is unbleached wax paper. This will have a natural brown color and should be indicated on the packaging.
Avoiding wax paper with paraffin wax is important if you want to choose a biodegradable product. Look out for natural oil alternatives and avoid the paraffin.
Bees wax wraps
A great wax paper alternative is bees wax. These are perfect for wrapping food without plastic and are a natural substance that can be eventually shredded and added to your compost. These products are biodegradable and come in great colors.
Recycling wax paper in industrial facilities
Most recycling facilities will not be able to recycle wax paper as it is considered a contaminated product. There is also limited processes available for separating the wax from the paper.
Is wax paper compostable and biodegradable? | Summary
Wax paper with a natural wax coating like soybean or beeswax will be compostable and biodegradable. Shred the paper as small as possible to help it to break down quicker. Choose an unbleached paper that has a natural brown color as this will not contain chlorine which can contaminate the soil.
Wax paper is a great way to stop foods from sticking and to wrap sandwiches, cheese or butter in your fridge. Give it a go, but remember not to heat it up as the wax can melt.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.