Can newspaper and paper towels be composted? I ask because I am hoping to set up a composting system at my work place and we use a lot of paper towels. I have heard the bleach/chemicals in the ink or the process of making the paper towels can be harmful to some soils etc.
Yes to both, with conditions. You should not try to compost any paper towels that have synthetic additives, including bleach, and are advertised as disinfectants or fragrant etc. The best paper towels to compost are those made of 100% recycled material.
Newsprint is actually sterile enough, it can be used to transport evidence if there is no other good way to do so. Newspaper, cut into thin strips are actually a good way to start a compost pile.
Do you know where you heard of problems with newspaper and paper towels? It would be interesting to see what the concerns are.
Here is a Cornell University link that addresses newspaper composting: