Does paper products like coffee filters in a home compost pile increase the risk of PFAS?


Can unbleached coffee/tea filters and paper bags, such as LunchSkins, be placed in a home compost pile? I attended a lecture that said these items may contain PFAS.


Jonathan Foster, Home Horticulture Outreach Professional

I asked my colleague, Nick Rowley, who is our in-house expert on compost, and I’ll provide his response in full:

“Currently the [Maine Department of Environmental Protection] recommends not composting paper products due to potential contamination. Pretty much, it’s not really known which products have these chemicals or not by consumers, so the MDEPA has been using a blanket statement to say don’t do it… However, the FDA states that these substances are no longer being sold for food contact in the US as of February 2024. So if these are both food contact materials then they should be okay to compost.”

In short, older paper products should probably go into the recycling or trash because we aren’t sure which chemicals they may have been produced with. If it’s a brand new product that is food contact safe–and such products, ideally, moving forward–it should be free of PFAS, by regulation. You can read a press release about the topic from the FDA here. The ME DEP is erring on the side of caution until everyone is certain that the industry changes have been made, and that those changes have made their way through the production process down to available consumer products.

Happy gardening (and composting).