Paper Towels Put in Garbage Do Not Recycle Unused paper towels cannot be recycled because the fibers are too short to be made into new paper. Used paper towels also cannot be recycled because they are usually soiled with food or grease, which contaminate the recycling process. Compost Towels and Tubes Brown paper towels and their cardboard tubes can be put in a home compost. Do not compost white paper towels at home compost because they are bleached. Also, do not compost any paper towels that have come into contact with chemicals. Recycle Cardboard Tubes You can recycle the tubes that come inside paper towel rolls alongside cardboard.