OTTAWA—North American consumers are addicted to ultra-soft toilet paper and it’s a luxury the planet can no longer afford, says a new international campaign launched by conservation groups.
The environmentalists say regular use of soft tissue paper is flushing trees from Canada’s ancient forests down the toilet and causing as much global warming pollution as someone who drives a gas-guzzler.
“Many people don’t know what goes into their toilet paper,” said Richard Brooks, the forest campaign coordinator at Greenpeace Canada. “But if they did, and what we’re trying to do is educate the general public about that, we think they would choose an alternative product—one that was made from recycled fibre.”
For years, Greenpeace Canada has battled with the maker of Kleenex tissue papers, Kimberly-Clark, urging it to use more recycled material in its products instead of relying on old-growth habitats such as the boreal forest. Greenpeace launched its Canadian campaign in 2004 with its own online consumer guide to environmentally sustainable products.
Despite the campaign, Brooks said that more than 90 per cent of tissue products sold in Canada are still made from “virgin” fibres in forests instead of from recycled fibres.
Greenpeace USA and the Natural Resources Defense Council are hoping their own version of the guide, along with their shocking comparisons, will make American consumers start to think about toilet paper longer than the few seconds they take to use them.
A spokesman for Kimberly-Clark called the campaign misleading, explaining that there can be positive and negative impacts for both recycled or virgin fibre products.
“What it comes down to is following responsible sustainable practices, which we do,” said Dave Dickson, the company’s director of corporate communications.
Meantime, consumers have consistently chosen to spend money for softness and strength that he said only virgin fibres could provide.
But one of Kimberly-Clark’s competitors is seeing another trend. Quebec-based Cascades, which specializes in recycled paper products, said its own sales in Canada increased by 300 per cent in 2008.