Paper Towels Are Not Recyclable Email Paper towels might have “paper” in their name, but don’t be fooled — they’re not recyclable. Like toilet paper and facial tissue, their fibers are too short to be recycled. Also, paper towels are usually soiled with food, grease or other liquids, which can contaminate paper that is recyclable. Brown, unbleached paper towels can be composted, except if you use them to wipe up any chemicals. Toss bleached or chemical-soiled paper towels in the trash. Keep in mind: You can reduce paper towel waste by grabbing a cloth towel or rag the next time you need to clean up something around the house.