The soft variety’s lack of recycled material is a sore spot for environmental groups. But some changes are occurring in the industry.
[Soft toilet] is a menace environmental groups say [because it is] usually made by chopping down and grinding up trees that were decades or even a century old. Environmentalists want Americans, like Europeans, to wipe with tissue made from recycled paper goods.
It has been slow going. Big toilet-paper makers say that they’ve taken steps to become more Earth-friendly but that their customers still want the soft stuff, so they’re selling it.
This summer, two of the best-known combatants in this fight signed a truce, with a big tissue maker promising to do better. But the larger battle goes on — the ultimate test of how green Americans will be when nobody’s watching.
[...] Toilet paper is far from being the biggest threat to the world’s forests: Together with facial tissue, it accounts for 5% of the U.S. forest-products industry, according to industry figures. Paper and cardboard packaging make up 26% of the industry, although more than half is made from recycled products. Newspapers account for 3%.
But environmentalists say 5% is still too much.
Felling these trees removes a valuable scrubber of carbon dioxide, they say. If the trees come from “farms” in places such as Brazil, Indonesia or the southeastern United States, natural forests are being displaced. If they come from Canada’s forested north — a major source of imported wood pulp — ecosystems valuable to bears, caribou and migratory birds are being damaged.
And, activists say, there’s just the foolish idea of the thing: old trees cut down for the briefest and most undignified of ends. “We don’t need old-growth forests . . . to wipe our behinds,” said Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
[...] Big tissue makers say they’ve tried to make their products as green as possible, including by buying more wood pulp from forest operations certified as sustainable.
But despite environmentalists’ concerns, they say customers are unwavering in their desire for the softest paper possible.
[...] Last month, Greenpeace announced an agreement that it said would change this industry from the inside.
The environmental group had spent 4 1/2 years attacking Kimberly-Clark Corp., the maker of Kleenex and Cottonelle toilet paper, for getting wood from old-growth forests in Canada. But the group said it was calling off the “Kleercut” campaign: Kimberly-Clark had agreed to make its practices greener. By 2011, the company said, 40% of the fiber in all its tissue products will come from recycled paper or sustainable forests.
Source: David A. Fahrenthold, Los Angeles Times, 25 Sep 2009