It is great to hear that you are interested in
the environment. Most napkins will end up in
the trash when people are done with them. They
are difficult to recycle because (1) they are
dirty and (2) the individual bits of paper in the
napkin are very thin and short. It is possible to
wash and recycle a piece of cardboard or
newspaper, but every time paper is recycled it
gets thinner and shorter.
Once the napkins are in the trash, they can go
to different places. Most of the trash in the
US is put into landfills. In these landfills
trash is buried in the ground and left to be
decomposed (very very slowly) by microbes. A
subset of the trash is burned in so called
Waste-to-energy plants and the energy from
the fire can be used to make electricity.
If you want to produce less trash, one option
is to use napkins and towels made of cloth
instead of paper. Ideally, you can use these
clothes several times before washing them together
with your laundry.
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