Unfortunately parchment paper is not recyclable as it is coated with a layer of silicone which makes it very difficult to recycle. The Silicon is used to make the paper non-stick and it’s not generally bio-degradable. So the short answer to the question; can you recycle parchment paper is no.
However, you have a few other options when it comes to a more sustainable option for parchment paper. If you’re following a reduce, reuse, recycle zero waste regime or even if you’re just looking for an alternative we have a few suggestions; we’ll discuss them further down below.
On the bright side, the box that the parchment paper comes in is normally made from paper and is easily recyclable as long as you remove the metal strip.
What is Parchment Paper?
Parchment paper is also known as baking paper or bakery paper, depending on where in the world you may be (Americas, UK etc). It is a greaseproof paper used in baking and cooking that is heat resistant and have a non-stick silicone coated surface making it a seemingly good option for baking.
Can you Re-use Parchment Paper?
Yes, as with tin foil you can re-use parchment paper, but it depends if it’s in a reasonable condition of course. As long as the paper is not overly greased, dark or burned and clean enough so nothing sticks to it then you can reuse it.
For dry dishes such as cookies, bread or some types of pies re-using should be possible. Just make sure you choose a good quality paper that lasts nice and long.
If the paper is soiled you have the potential for bacteria to grow and fester so it’s best to be careful. Baking at hot temperates can help manage bacteria growth as these little critters don’t tend to survive in baking temperates. But we’d recommend that you proceed with caution and use good judgement here.
Is Parchment Paper Compostable?
Traditional, old fashioned parchment paper is not compostable. However, you do get new types of parchment that can be composted.
If the paper is compostable it will clearly state that on the packaging so look out for these types of papers.
Substitutes for Parchment or Baking Paper
If your recipe calls for parchment paper and you’ve run out or don’t want to use it overall you do have a few alternative options.
The reason why a recipe will usually call for baking or parchment paper is for its non-stick properties. It’s also heatproof and will reduce browning of baked goods to a degree. Sometimes it’s also used to make pouches for cooking fish.
Parchment also helps to reduce washing up, as it protects the surface of baking trays and the like against soiling. But if you’re doing the sensible thing and hope to look after the environment then you might need to do a bit of manual labour instead.
This is a good alternative to the parchment paper as it’s non-stick and will do a similar job. It’s also good for making pockets if you’re baking fish as it’s very mouldable. In terms of recycling, please check locally as some areas in the UK do recycle foil if it’s clean and scrunched up in a ball. Other countries will vary. If you care makes a foil from recycled Aluminium.
A Greased Pan or Baking Tray
This is how they use to do it before parchment paper ever existed, and is still as effective as it was for the generations who came before us. Unless you need something that folds or rolls, just grease your baking tray and wash it when you’re done! If you’re worried about browning, keep an eye on the temperature and baking time for best results.
If you don’t want to grease your oven trays then there is also the option to use a cooking spray. Remember cooking spray is likely to be overly processed and contain chemicals you most likely can’t pronounce. Unless you’re using a pure oil spray of course. For this reason, we’d recommend sticking to greasing the pan instead.
Is parchment paper harmful?
Because parchment paper or the baking paper is coated with silicone you might wonder if it’s safe. In theory yes it meets food safety standards but does contain silicone. Most papers are also bleached with chlorine, so as a minimum look for unbleached paper. Even though the bleach may have evaporated by the time it gets to you a residue can remain. The making process is also harmful to the environment so it’s best to use unbleached paper.
Think about it, there is no reason why the paper has to be white it’s just aesthetics, the unbleached paper will do the same job if not better.
If you’re absolutely set on using parchment paper then please go for a compostable option. And if you’re using a compostable paper, then add it to the compost and not the general waste bin as it will just end up in a landfil where it’s hard to break down due to the way commercial landfils work. Or choose a suitable alternative from some of the options above.