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Is wax paper biodegradable? Wax paper is a food-grade material that is coated with a thin layer of paraffin wax. It is non-stick and water-resistant – making it one of the highly preferred countertops and table linings during cooking or kneading.

If you want to freeze some food or put some icing on the cake, or you want to grab a wrapper for your sandwiches, a wax paper will also come in handy. 

And to answer the question, yes, wax paper is inherently biodegradable at about the same rate as leaf mulch. By “biodegradability,” it means it can disintegrate or decompose or chemically dissolve through the action of microorganisms such as bacteria or fungi. Everything is biodegradable when using the term loosely, the better questions become how long will it take to biodegrade, and will it release toxins into the environment?

Another question is whether wax paper is compostable? You bet it is.

Generally, wax paper is compostable material under European Standard EN 13432. Read the packaging to confirm if the wax paper you bought fulfills the biodegradability requirement of European Standard EN 13432 or the US Standard ASTM D6400-99 before throwing them into your compost bin. As you may know, different brands use different types of waxes, and the rate of decomposition will depend on whether soybean wax, mineral wax, or other wax is used.

Want to learn more? Check out our article on Best Biodegradable Trash Bags for more!

How long does wax paper take to decompose?

Soybean wax, beeswax, candelilla wax, or other vegetable wax will take about two weeks or a month to compost. For petroleum-based paraffin, this could take much longer. You will get the best compost out of organic wax. 

Hand mixing compost
Photo Credit: John Porter

Is wax paper environmentally friendly?

The world has reached the annual production of plastic to 407 million tons – 38% of this is attributed to packaging alone. Sadly, around ∼244 million tons of plastic end up in landfills or the ocean; greener alternatives are being explored to respond to this growing problem.

The wax paper has several environmental benefits other than being biodegradable and compostable. Among of which include: 


The paper recycling industry has significantly reduced carbon emission at 147.97 million metric tons of carbon equivalent (MTCO2E). That is said to be equivalent to 31 million cars removed from the road in one year!

 According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the U.S., the paper has the highest recycling rate of all packaging materials at 44.17 million tons, followed by glass at only 3.03 million tons. Paper and paperboard represent 66% of the total municipal solid waste recycled in 2017. 

According to Centre Technique du Papier (CTP) in France, wax paper is repulpable and can be recycled to produce a good quality paper. It can also be used as a raw material for corrugated boards.


Paper is from wood — and if harvested in a sustainably managed forest, you will have an endless supply of wax paper out there. 

However, the main issue is that the paraffin wax coating is petroleum-based and is, therefore, non- renewable. Paraffin wax is a solid mixture of saturated hydrocarbons. However, thanks to technological innovations, there are already existing vegetable wax-based coatings in the market that are made from renewable green carbon

Vegetable waxes used in paper packaging are from hardened fats of vegetable oils. When combined with appropriate base papers, they can become fully recyclable and biodegradable wax papers. 

Some wax papers are made from hardened vegetable oils!
Photo Credit: Yana Gayvoronskaya

Energy and cost-efficiency

I have mentioned that wax paper is recyclable. Recycling of paper consumes 31% less energy than virgin paper production. Recycling also saves much more power than incineration. Having a good portion of wax paper in the recycling facility will significantly reduce energy in incineration facilities and reduce the energy used during virgin paper production. 

If not recycled, wax paper waste can still be utilized for energy recovery because of its high calorific valueCalorific value is defined as the amount of heat energy present in any material determined during complete combustion under a specified quantity, constant pressure, and normal condition. Petroleum-based paraffin wax paper will be most useful in this regard. Paraffin has a calorific value of 10,340 kcal/kg, while a coated paper has a calorific value of 6,390 kcal/kg.

The difference between waxed paper from parchment paper

Wax paper is interchangeably used with parchment paper, but in one case – such as in oven baking – is very dangerous.

While both are non-stick and moisture resistant, the wax paper does not have the same heat resistance as the parchment paper. This is because the wax paper is coated with paraffin wax or other types of resins that get melted (and burned) in high temperatures.

A parchment paper, in contrast, is coated with silicone (with an “e”). Silicone is a synthetic polymer created from silicon, oxygen, and other elements, most commonly carbon and hydrogen. It has a low thermal conductivity, which means it could transfer heat at a slower rate than other materials, making it heat resistant and ideal for oven cooking.

Another stark difference is in the processing. The wax paper undergoes a much simpler process than the parchment paper. The paper will be compressed for the wax paper until it produces a transparent paper before it is coated with wax. This is called a supercalendering.

A parchment paper undergoes a more complicated process. First, the paper will be pressed into a sheet, and afterward, it will be dipped into an acid bath. Then it will be washed and then will be passed over a series of hot rotating drums. These hot drums will then realign the fibers and make the paper strong enough to be coated with silicone.

Both the parchment paper and wax paper can be bleached or unbleached. Brown colored ones mean they are left unbleached thus are processed less than the white ones, which have been treated with chlorine.

Is parchment paper biodegradable?

The answer is YES. Like a wax paper material, parchment paper is also 100% biodegradable. However, chlorine-bleached parchment paper may produce a chemical known as dioxin during degradation, so better to buy the brown ones.

Is Wax Paper Biodegradable?

The wide range of wax paper applications plus several environmental benefits makes it a better option than plastic packaging. It is compostable, biodegradable, and budget-friendly.

When buying wax paper, look for green brands that use an organic coating or vegetable oil wax such as candelilla wax, soybean wax, and more eco-friendly products compared to petroleum-based wax such as paraffin. Ensure that the company sources out vegetable wax and papers from producers who supply under a sustainable production policy. 

In this way, you will not only lessen your kitchen waste, but you would also reduce the pile of materials already existing in the landfills. Indeed, whatever is suitable for nature, is also useful for you.

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