I haven't yet made my first million and so, like everyone else, my family is forced to use toilet paper. My one consolation, however, is that there seems to have been a technological revolution in toilet paper manufacturing since I was a kid. The new stuff is infinitely softer, even--dare I say it--luxurious. Also environmentally conscious, however, I was forced to forgo my favorite brand, Cottonelle, after learning that its parent company, Kimberly Clark, was cutting down some of the last virgin forests left on earth in order to make their fluffy wares. (For this reason, we also don't buy Kleenex). Luckily, there were other companies out there offering the superior product that soft-connoisseurs demand.
But now the New York Times has taken all the fun out of my morning constitutional:
...fluffiness comes at a price: millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada. Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them. ...You can read the full article here.
Environmentalists are focusing on tissue products for reasons besides the loss of trees. Turning a tree to paper requires more water than turning paper back into fiber, and many brands that use tree pulp use polluting chlorine-based bleach for greater whiteness. In addition, tissue made from recycled paper produces less waste tonnage — almost equaling its weight — that would otherwise go to a landfill.
One question remains unanswered: if they recycle all of the paper in China, then does using recycled paper really lower your environmental impact? Sadly, the Telegraph says yes.
The hardest part of writing this post is choosing which pithy pun to end on. Bummer? Well, shit? Oh, crap? Crapcakes? How do you like them crapples? I choose not to choose.
The WRAP study calculated that sending one tonne of recovered paper from the UK to China produced between 154kg- 213kg of CO2 and transporting one tonne of recovered plastic bottles ranged between 158kg-230kg of CO2.
But the CO2 levels represented less than a third of the carbon savings produced from recycling.
The transport emissions became even smaller - less than 10 per cent of the overall amount of CO2 saved by recycling - because the waste can travel in containers that would normally be empty because the UK imports more than it exports to China.