Do you want to make a big environmental impact fast? Changing your behavior on tissue paper use is a very simple and immediate way. In the United States, we use about 50 pounds of tissue products per person every year. This is 50% more than the consumption rate in Western Europe and Japan, and usage has grown considerably over the past few decades. We just can’t seem to get enough tissue. About two-thirds of tissue paper use is at home and one-third is away from home, so the majority of tissue purchasing and use is within your control.
Some things about the tissue paper market are disturbing and just don’t make sense to me.
Almost all of the heavily advertised tissue products available at your local store are made from trees, rather than recycled paper.
According to These Come from Trees, one tree produces about 100 pounds of paper. A household of four will consume 2 TREES every year when using non-recycled products.
We have a lot of recycling paper looking for a second use.
Paper can only be recycled a few times, so a perfect “final use” for recycled paper is tissue paper products.
Why not use only recycled paper for tissue products? The reason according to major manufacturers is that Americans want extremely soft tissue, and the fiber taken from live trees give tissue that plush feel. Recycled paper has a slightly rougher feel. In other countries the use of recycled paper for tissue is much higher than in the U.S. We sacrifice our forests for soft tissue. There is a very interesting NY Times article reviewing our “national obsession with soft paper”. Check it out.
Let’s take a look at the paper in general
If you browse the environmental blogs you find many strong opinions about the paper. Statements like “household paper use is more harmful to the environment than driving a Hummer.” Well, there are good reasons for these kinds of statements. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “the paper and pulp industry may contribute to more global and local environmental problems than any industry in the world.” Here is a quick summary of some of the issues:
Paper manufacturing is environmentally harsh:
It uses a lot of timber destroying wildlife habitat.
It’s a major generator of water and air pollution including dioxins and other cancer-causing chemicals.
The industry is the third-largest industrial emitter of global warming gasses.