Archive for Friday, September 25, 2009

Environmentalists seek to wipe out plush toilet paper

September 25, 2009


— There is a battle for America’s behinds.

It is a fight over toilet paper: the kind that is blanket-fluffy and getting fluffier so fast that manufacturers are running out of synonyms for “soft” (Quilted Northern Ultra Plush is the first big brand to go three-ply and three-adjective).

It’s a menace, environmental groups say — and a dark-comedy example of American excess.

The reason, they say, is that plush U.S. toilet paper is usually made by chopping down and grinding up trees that were decades or even a century old. They 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 still selling it.

‘At what price is softness?’

This summer, two of the best-known combatants in this fight signed a surprising 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.

“At what price softness?” said Tim Spring, chief executive of Marcal Manufacturing, a New Jersey paper maker that is trying to persuade customers to try 100 percent recycled paper. “Should I contribute to clear-cutting and deforestation because the big (marketing) machine has told me that softness is important?”

He added: “You’re not giving up the world here.”

Toilet paper is far from being the biggest threat to the world’s forests: together with facial tissue, it accounts for 5 percent of the U.S. forest-products industry, according to industry figures. Paper and cardboard packaging makes up 26 percent of the industry, although more than half is made from recycled products. Newspapers account for 3 percent.

But environmentalists say 5 percent 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.

“It’s like the Hummer product for the paper industry,” said Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We don’t need old-growth forests ... to wipe our behinds.”

Still large demand

The reason for this fight lies in toilet-paper engineering. Each sheet is a web of wood fibers, and fibers from old trees are longer, which produces a smoother and more supple web. Fibers made from recycled paper — in this case magazines, newspapers or computer printouts — are shorter. The web often is rougher.

So, when toilet paper is made for the “away from home” market, the no-choice bathrooms in restaurants, offices and schools, manufacturers use recycled fiber about 75 percent of the time.

But for the “at home” market, the paper customers buy for themselves, 5 percent at most is fully recycled. The rest is mostly or totally “virgin” fiber, taken from newly cut trees, according to the market analysis firm RISI Inc.

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.

“That’s a segment (of consumers) that is quite demanding of products that are soft,” said James Malone, a spokesman for Georgia-Pacific. Sales figures seem to make that clear: Quilted Northern Ultra Plush, the three-ply stuff, sold 24 million packages in the past year, bringing in more than $144 million, according to the market research firm Information Resources Inc.

Making changes

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, the makers of Kleenex and Cottonelle toilet paper, for getting wood from old-growth forests in Canada.

But the group said it is calling off the “Kleercut” campaign: Kimberly-Clark had agreed to make its practices greener.

By 2011, the company said, 40 percent of the fiber in all its tissue products will come from recycled paper or sustainable forests.

“We could have campaigned forever,” said Lindsey Allen, a senior forest campaigner with Greenpeace. But this was enough, she said, because Kimberly-Clark’s changes could alter the entire wood-pulp supply chain: “They have a policy that ... will shift the entire way that tissue companies work.”


jonas_opines 8 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

tomatogrower 8 years, 7 months ago

This 3 ply toilet paper is a scam. They charge more, because they tell you can use less, so you are really saving money, but in reality, people still use the same amount of paper, fluffy or not, so it's costing you more. It's like not lowering the price of a candy bar, just make it smaller with fewer nuts.

ranger73 8 years, 7 months ago

do it like my dog does and run around the yard in circles dragging it's bottom on the grass...

gccs14r 8 years, 7 months ago

Feed your dog better food and he won't need to do that.

jonas_opines 8 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Clickker 8 years, 7 months ago

The one thing I hate is the crowd that is pushing the washable ( reusable) wipes for the bathroom. My neighbor does that and I refuse to go there. She uses a diaper bin, but it eventually starts to fester. And I'm not sure the washing of the cloths saves that much energy.

puddleglum 8 years, 7 months ago

berryboy sez: "Once dry, used tea bags work."

yeah, worked great for all the teabaggers from the gop last summer! ha!

if you really want to save the environment, conserve toilet paper-use both sides.

bad_dog 8 years, 7 months ago

"if you really want to save the environment, conserve toilet paper-use both sides."

That reminds me of a poster from back in the day that featured a toilet with paper dispenser mounted above the tank. The paper was routed through rollers, under the seat and down the front of the bowl to another roll with bicycle pedals mounted upon either side. The sign above the stool read: "Reverse Roll When Empty".

JayCat_67 8 years, 7 months ago

There is, of course, the "one sheet method" of wiping, but describing it just doesn't do it justice. You have to see the demonstration.

and, Tom, buddy, you really need to get a life, dude.

headdoctor 8 years, 7 months ago

TomShewmon (Tom Shewmon) says… Mexicans and many other under-developed nations don't flush toilet paper (if they even use a toilet). What have I been telling you about drifting toward third-worldness? Will I have to learn how to carry two 5-gallon buckets of water on a yoke too? Wash my clothes down in the creek on some rocks?

WHAT? You do not already do this. Now what kind of conservative are you?

ralphralph 8 years, 7 months ago

I have long predicted that the day would come when we would need to have The Government wipe our backsides, but I thought it would be because we were too dependent and lazy.

jonas_opines 8 years, 7 months ago

Good lord, nevermind!! I just can't win on this one.

L!1: Notsa bad.

TopJayhawk 8 years, 7 months ago

Aw Tom, you beat me to it. We need a toilet paper czar now!! When I was single, I used napkins from McDonalds and other fast-food places, worked just fine. The Golden Arches make for a clean sweep.

gccs14r 8 years, 7 months ago

There's always the option of a washlet or bidet. Paper isn't required, it's merely customary here.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 7 months ago

They can pry [a huge wad of ] my Charmin Super-Strong from my cold, dead, not-yet-washed right hand!

As long as we have legal abortions, we should have legally plush toilet paper. I think the phrase is "what I do with my body is my business"... with emphasis on "business". Finally, I can get "behind" Roe v. Wade.

beatrice 8 years, 7 months ago

"As long as they have legal abortions ..."

So what is the Godwin equivalent for bringing abortion into a non-abortion issue?

Recycled paper or not as long as they just take those dingle-berry bears off tv, I'll be satisfied.

jonas_opines 8 years, 7 months ago

"So what is the Godwin equivalent for bringing abortion into a non-abortion issue?"


Jim Phillips 8 years, 7 months ago

Stories like this just warm the cockles of my heart. Next will be the Toilet Police who will also be responsible for checking your carbon rations card.

Satirical 8 years, 7 months ago

These environmentalists can recycle and use all of my previously used toilet paper they want. After-all, I only used one side. They can use the other side of my used toilet paper when nature calls : )

If they refuse, then clearly they don't genuinely care about the caribou or the environment. It's a win-win; I get to keep my soft toilet paper, and they get to feel good about helping the environment.

Satirical 8 years, 7 months ago

We should all become environmentalists and ship our used toilet paper to these people, so it gets maximum use. Anyone know their address?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 7 months ago

Nice toilets Tom.

Hey instead of toilet paper why not encourage residential toilets with a douche. Then dry the butt with a towel. This would also prevent or reduce irritation.

A douche is a device used to introduce a stream of water into the body for medical or hygienic reasons.

This would reduce the need for toilet paper quite substantially.

BigPrune 8 years, 7 months ago

merrill, I've never heard of a man douching. Does everyone share a towel in your household? What does the wife think about you douching? It sounds quite sick, really.

classclown 8 years, 7 months ago

Merril are you sure you don't mean enema?

classclown 8 years, 7 months ago

As Marion would say... It will be recalled that I broke this story way back when...

nah... I'm not trying to be like Marion. But I did make mention of this a few months ago with this post.

I read about this back then. I think I noticed it while reading News Of The Weird and then looked it up. I'm surprised it took this long for our media to make mention of it though. As if this is something new.

Maybe now that they're not spending as much time singing a certain someone's praises they're trying to catch up on what they should have been reporting on all along.

rubberband 8 years, 7 months ago

My teen daughter's take on this: "That's just crap."

BigPrune 8 years, 7 months ago

Merrill, I still don't know how a man could douche. I will cut and paste and save your post so I can repost it when you are giving your expert advice on other important matters.

How about one square of toilet paper and a government regulation on undergarments requiring a ScotchGard stripe for fabric protection if you're okay with the government in our bathrooms? They could leave it up to the "Do Not Remove Tag From Mattress" czar to regulate it.

RoeDapple 8 years, 7 months ago

Soon your Dillons Card (or Hyvee, Walmart, Costco) will be mandatory for checking out at the register. If your purchases of toilet paper or any other rationed product are beyond limits set by your government you will get "Purchase Denied". GM will become profitable again through sales of black Suburbans to the government. Stock prices for Bell Helicopter will skyrocket as production of black stealth helicopters triples. Reynolds Aluminum has already increased production in anticipation of foil hats needed. Ammunition manufacturers are already working three shifts to feed the black hole that is swallowing miilions of rounds of 9MM ammo per day....

Didn't Johnny Carson start all this in '73?

beatrice 8 years, 7 months ago

Merrill just gave a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Don't touch the guest towels!"

RKLOG 8 years, 7 months ago

OK, everyone likes to hide behind their funny, clever little anonymous posts but saving our environmental resources is actually a serious issue. We need to start working on this now so that our kids and future generations can enjoy the luxuries that we do. It's the citizens like us that can make a difference, and for such little effort. Are your butts that important that you can't at least heed some of the free advice you getting about improving the environment? Or will waiting for the state to force you to stop wasting resources make you feel more like Americans? If you are too lazy to do this for the rest of us that are trying to make a difference, then at least do it for your grandchildren.

Godot 8 years, 7 months ago

I support research into the efficacy of using moistened tobacco leaves as the primary aide in personal toileting hygiene. The tobacco leaf is large enough for the job, is biodegradable, and represents a plant that no one in the greenie world wants to preserve. Transforming tobacco from hated inhalation addiction to a**wipe addiciton, in less than a generation, would manifest a truly green accomplishment of world-wide impaction.

Sunny Parker 8 years, 7 months ago

RKLOG....'our grandchildren'?

Nobody cares about our grandchildren! They won't be able to afford any type of TP, they will be busy paying for the car manufacturer bail-outs and the billions of trillions of dept that your Hussein has gotten us into.

classclown 8 years, 7 months ago

Just get a small dog and use it. It can always go out in the yard and roll around and clean itself off.

phenommenom 8 years, 7 months ago

Geez toliet paper is toliet paper one ply should be good enough! It would be nice if we all did something to ensure that Earth will be here and healthy for the next 7 generations! How did this become an issue relating to the government? Sunny I believe it was President Bush who was in charge when all of the economic problems started happening. By time President Obama came into office there were few options he had to ensure the economic problems he inheritedwould became worse. Where is your respect for the Office of the President?

Boosh 8 years, 7 months ago

Multidisciplinary said "Like a road cut through a mountain pass..."

Oh gods help me! I can't get that imagery out a me head!

denak 8 years, 7 months ago

"...Mexicans and many other under-developed nations don't flush toilet paper (if they even use a toilet). What have I been telling you about drifting toward third-worldness?..."

One, Mexicans do use toilet paper. Two, in some areas of Mexico, the reason toilet paper is not flushed is due to the lousy plumbing system. Even in Mexico City, in some of the finer hotels, you will see signs that asks you to please put the toilet paper in the trash can that is next to the toilet. Mexicans are just as concerned with hygiene as Americans are. Maybe Tom, if you would actually go there, you would find this out instead of making baseless generalizations about people.

Two, as for men douching. I don't think this is a good idea. It isn't even a good idea for women to douche so I really don't see why men would. Any doctors out there who could tell us why a man would have to douche?

Personally, I use the 2 ply/store brand stuff. I don't really see the reason to buy 3 ply. Much more expensive. However, I had an acquaintance once that would bring her own toilet paper to people's houses. She absolutely refused to use anything other than 3 ply. I don't see her sitting down on this issue. :)


Godot 8 years, 7 months ago

We should all carry bottles of warm epsom salt water to cleanse ourselves, and learn to shake, vigorously, after the cleansing. I can see many benefits, including the calories burned by carrying the extra weight of the water, the muscle development of the quads and gluts from hovering over the elimination pit, plus the positive effect on the obliques from the side-to-side shaking movement.

A mini-personal fan, solar powered, of course, would be a boon. Perhaps we could power this fan while carrying it on our backs as we walk to and from work and shopping,

RKLOG 8 years, 7 months ago

tumbilweed (Anonymous) says…

"I think the reason why the above don't care is they all already have grandchildren. "

Thanks Tumbilweed, I agree.

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