Are Coffee Filters Compostable? But Are They Worth the Effort?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: April 30, 2021
  • Time to read: 9 min.

Nothing feels better than taking a sip of coffee on those cold mornings. 

For me, coffee is an everyday necessity, so a coffee maker is a perfect addition. 

Considering that you’re drinking a lot of coffee in your house, you’re likely to toss plenty of filters in your trash bin.

Probably you’ve never thought about whether this practice is right or wrong. 

There is a myriad of mixed questions we as coffee lovers should ask ourselves. 

Is it safe for the environment? 

How can you dispose of coffee filters sustainably?

Just look at your dustbin full of filters, then look into your garden and digest – are coffee filters compostable? 

Like you, I would think the same thing. As an ethical consumer, I did research and hands-on testing to get the answer.  

That said, let’s see whether it’s right to add coffee filters in a compost heap and make better use of them. 

Are Coffee Filters Compostable?

Absolutely yes, coffee filters are fully compostable. 

To clear any confusion, here we mean ‘paper’ coffee filters. 

If your filters feature or are made of other materials such as linen, things will be different. 

Also, consider coffee filters that come with beach coating and other chemicals. 

Environmentalists recommend an unbleached filter as it keeps your compost relatively organic. 

In terms of chemicals, the filter contains very minuscule amounts that create no impact on health. 

Non-paper filters, cloth filters, metal filters, and plastic filters are not compostable. 

Most paper products are by far the sustainable choice for composting. 

Adding coffee filters to your compost pile comes with benefits worth the hype. 

Manufacturers boost these materials with healthy carbon that balances the amount of nitrogen present. 

You have thrown in your coffee grounds, too, as they’re nitrogen-rich, thereby enhancing the quality of your compost. 

The filters control odor, resulting in a healthy compost pile that’s easy to maintain. 

Which types of coffee filters are good for composting?

Of course, adding coffee filters proves to be the smartest technique to bulk it out. 

Also, it neutralizes the odor. That’s not all; there are some factors to look for when composting – that’s types of coffee filters.

Bleached vs. Unbleached filters

Which type of paper filter comes in as the best? Paper coffee filters are available in different types, but the main ones are bleached (white paper filter) and unbleached (brown paper filter).

Unbleached (brown paper) filter. 

Brown is the natural color of paper. These filters are the sustainable choice in that they compost quickly than alternatives. 

Plus, not having bleaching coating is a good thing for both the environment and your diet. 

It is advisable to wet the filter before you add it to your compost pile. That speeds up the decomposition process.

When is it suitable?

  • When you want to add something rich in nitrogen to your compost
  • If you need something that degrades quickly without having to harm the planet
  • Perfect for a zero-waste lifestyle
Bleached (white paper) filter

A bleached paper filter isn’t a great candidate for compositing. 

It’s treated using bleaching agents, most likely chlorine and its related products or peroxygen bleaching agents.

The fact that these paper filters are bleached doesn’t change their compostability to a great extent. Truth be told, the latter has fewer pros than the latter. 

One noticeable thing is that white papers will take a longer time to decompose in compost. They aren’t the best choice, though.

Other types of coffee filters include:
  • Chemex filters – they’re compostable and biodegradable.
  • Melitta coffee filters – you can put them in a compost pile
  • Bamboo coffee filter – It’s tricky to find one but should be 100% compostable

How to Compost Coffee Filters/Steps to compost used coffee filters

If you’re a beginner, it will make your work and effort to create a functioning compost pile. 

To get things right, here are few steps to follow when composting used coffee filters:

Collect and compost the grounds

Compost the grounds too! Opt not to empty them into your dustbin. 

It’s obvious that coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, an element that compost heap needs.

Well, used coffee beans are compostable. They provide a handful of valuable nutrients that helps your plants thrive. 

You’ll need this excellent fertilizer during summertime. 

Shred the filter into pieces 

There’s a high probability that coffee filters will take a more extended period of time to biodegrade. 

Tear off filters into small pieces to accelerate the process. It’s even easier to tear off the filter as they’re already wet.

Secure your hands by wearing gloves when taking the filter out of the coffee brewer. With this, you won’t fall victim to burning.

Don’t add them at once

Although coffee filters are compostable, you can’t effectively compost with only filters. 

You need to maintain a balance by mixing vegetation with organic matter to make valuable compost. For example:

  • Dead leaves
  • Leftovers
  • Fresh lawn
  • Vegetable peels
  • Old bread
  • Newspapers

To mention, you can’t add a coffee filter as the only waste and expect a rich compost heap. Similarly, don’t use other ingredients in a large mass. 

Try to keep things all square. It’s a way of maintaining the overall process.

Layout the coffee filter after every use. 

In the first place, I don’t understand why you should save them all at once. 

Mix it up

Finally, mix them through. But before that, you need to mist the used coffee filters with your hose. 

Wet the dried coffee beans to boost up the decomposition process. 

Spread them in a thin layer (center of the composite pile). Then, mix the ingredients thoroughly. 

You can add more water if you need to. Use a pitchfork to mix. It does the job well and faster. Add worms at times to break the filters.

Pros and cons of composting coffee filters

Yes, you can compost a coffee filter. It could be what you lack in your compost pile despite having it in your house. 

Having a sustainable and eco-friendly way to dispose of coffee filters keeps it away from landfills. 

You can make better use of filters. Additionally, this promotes a healthy environment.

Now that you know coffee filters are compostable, what are the pros and cons to keep in mind?


  • The coffee filter is compostable material (when wet, it decomposes quickly)
  • Unbleached paper filters feature no chemicals
  • Words can break down filters with ease


  • Bleached filters can leave behind traces of toxic chemicals
  • Shredding off filters can be messy

How Long Do Coffee Filters Take To Decompose?

About 6 to 8 months. There’s no exact answer to this tricky question. Some factors can influence the decomposition rate. These factors include:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Type of coffee filters
  • Time of the year
  • How long coffee filters existed beforehand

Generally, coffee filters take somewhere between 6 to 8 months to decompose completely. 

Bleached fillers may take over 1 year to decompose and become unrecognizable. 

While this is a reasonable period of time for most organic products, you’d want to enhance the process. 

Use the pitchfork to turn the coffee filters and grounds around after every 1-2 weeks.

Are Coffee Filters Bad for the Environment?

Not really, but it depends on how you use them. Most coffee filters are made of brown paper. So, I expect nothing about it that can harm the environment. 

What you do with filters will one way or the other impact the environment, though. 

If you use 5 of them daily and end up in the garbage or landfills, that raises the question about the environment.

However, if you compost or reuse your coffee filters, then it’s great for the environment. 

Even the production to manufacturing, the process is safe for the earth.

  • The unbleached coffee filter is derived from the pressed pulp. Rinse this paper before using it in your coffee machine. Do it in warm water to eliminate any taste of the paper.
  • For bleached paper, it’s all about aesthetic appeal. The chlorine removes the color, odor, and taste on the paper. You don’t have to rinse. If used as per the manufacturer’s instructions, it won’t pose any challenge to the environment.

Fascinating Ways to Sustainably Reuse Used Coffee Filters 

Apart from adding them into your compost, there are genius ways to use the coffee filter. So, what are these alternatives?

Reuse them 

It’s a known fact that you can use a coffee filter again and again before it deteriorates. 

Don’t use a filter for just a single pot of coffee, then discard it. The paper possesses a tensile strength so that you can use it multiple times.

Dry it out and keep it set for the next batch. You can reuse it 2 to 3 times before thinking otherwise.

Control weed growth 

You can use coffee filters to mulch your plants in the garden. Line them on the base of your plants. 

This will not only help the soil retain moisture but also slow down the growth of weeds. 

In fact, this is a cost-effective and easy way to battle weeds on your small plants. At the same time, it acts as a fertilizer. 

Line your house plant pots

Collect two to four cups of coffee grounds and filters, then place circle your house pots to create a protective layer around it.  

We usually grow plants like spinach and more around our house. 

Instead of tossing them in the bin, save them for use on the plants. 

Equally important, you’ll be protecting the soil from spilling out.

Use them for cleaning.

You can use coffee filters to clean glass surfaces. Unlike linen filters, coffee filters leave no scratches behind once you use them. 

Thankfully, they’re safe to use. 

And even it will leave your glasses sparkling clean – free from those pesky stains. 

No scratches, no residue! 

Retain moisture of microwaving food

We regularly microwave food like chicken breast, leftovers, and more. 

You can use a paper towel, but a coffee filter has proven to be an excellent alternative. It helps retain moisture.

And because you’ve already used the filters, you’ll be curbing waste in your dustbin. 

Strainer for cooking oil 

You can use a filter to strain your cooking oil. By doing so, you’re getting rid of the impurities, making it healthy for use. 

Set it on the top part of the jar to get the job done. The liquid in the new jar will be clean for the second use. 

A protective layer

Coffee filters function as a second protective layer. You can use this option to protect your fragile and valuable things. Just set them between glasses or jewelry. 

Is It Safe to Compost Coffee Filters In Your Garden?

Yes. But one word of caution is that you shouldn’t use them straight. 

They might produce a very unpleasant odor. Add them after every use. 

Also, try to mix with other ingredients available. This will counter-attack the odor.

Is Coffee Filter Recyclable?

Nope. Unlike other papers, coffee filters aren’t recyclable

Recycling programs rarely accept coffee filters. But you’ve got options. Throw them in the center of your compost pile. 

Simply reduce and reuse sustainably. 

Are Coffee Filters Biodegradable?

Definitely yes. Coffee filters are biodegradable. They break down and decompose very quickly. 

It goes without saying, all compostable materials are biodegradable. But vice versa doesn’t apply. 

When they’re wet in a compost pile, worms will like them.

Do Coffee Filters Contain Plastic?

Fortunately, it depends. Most coffee filters are made of paper. 

What else would make a plastic filter if not plastic? 

It’s a matter of using common sense. Check the packaging before making a purchase. 

Final Thoughts

A coffee filter is better for your compost pile. It degrades quickly in about 6 to 8 months. 

Now that you know filters are compostable avoid throwing them into your trash bin. 

Other than combating climate change, you can create a nutrient-rich heap for your garden come springtime. 

The article breaks down everything for you. 

The remaining part is for you. That’s action!

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