Tissue paper might be the most useful thing in our life in wiping something, or anything. From facial tissue to toilet paper, from wiping of our sweat to cleaning the dinner table, we often find this thing useful for many purposes.
We consider it as just one simple thing with various uses and thus tissue paper is popular all around the world. Indeed, tissue paper is pretty useful for our daily lives, however it possibly is not the most beneficial thing to the nature.
Tissue paper, like most of the papers produced by manufacturers, is made from pulp. If we track it back to the earlier stage, we know that pulp is made of chopped woods, and the woods are cut from living trees.
While looking on the fact that new tissues are made of cut down trees, you might think that we can instead recycled paper to produce it. However, that’s not what most tissue paper manufacturers do, and what most consumers expect.
How can it be possible? In this article we will talk about it.
Demand And Expectation
One feature of tissue that we often compare one product to another is its softness. And as marketing strategy of the manufacturers, they always boast the softness of their tissue paper products compared to others.
The problem is, it applies to every single form of tissue, from facial tissue to toilet paper. As softer tissue products are produced from fresh woods, it means that apparently, we tend to risk our environment rather than our butts.
This is the reason why we don’t want to buy tissue products that were made from recycled paper. The fiber of fresh wood from living trees will produce much softer tissue paper than recycled paper, and recycled paper tissue is coarser than the products produced from fresh pulp.
And since softer tissue products were introduced and sold widely in the market, the demand for this product has raised beyond believe. Nowadays, most toilet paper and facial tissue produced and consumed are the ‘softer’ version of them.
“This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous,” said Allen Hershkowitz of Natural Resources Defence Council to The Guardian.
More Tissues Less Trees
So, we know that most tissue papers produced nowadays are produced from cutting trees, now let’s see how many trees should be cut down to produce the soft papers. Dr. William Yu, the founder and chief executive of World Green Organization explained.
“At least 17 trees will have to be cut down and 20,000 gallons of water is contaminated in order to produce a ton of tissue paper,” he said. The consumption of tissue paper worldwide is far more than just one ton daily.
In Hong Kong alone, based on the data collected in 2014, daily consumption of tissue paper was about 668 tons. It means that in just one part of the world, about 11,300 trees and 13 million gallons of water is required to fulfill the demand for the soft paper.
It is quite hard to imagine how many more trees and gallons of water needed to fulfill the worldwide demand. Let alone if we convert it to monthly consumption and annual consumption of tissue paper. “Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age,” said Hershkowitz.
There are three main points that have become the concern in producing toilet papers: consuming trees, contaminating water, and use of chemicals. Thus, soft tissue paper belongs to one of the most harmful product that human ever created.
Not The Companies’ Fault?
United States of America is one of the choosiest country in the world based on how they choose toilet papers. Data showed that 98% of toilet roll consumed in America came from virgin wood or fresh trees, said Hershkowitz.
The fussy character of American citizen is based on a stereotype about recycled toiled paper. “We have this myth in the US that recycled is just so low quality, it’s like cardboard and is impossible to use,” said Lindsey Allen, Greenpeace’s forestry campaigner.
Greenpeace is among the most aggressive activists and conservationists group to fight against the American choosiness. The point they are fighting is to erase such stereotype and push the paper industry giants to stop marketing the luxurious ‘butt wipe’.
However, in their defense, the companies said that it is not their fault to commercially sell the luxurious toilet paper. Dave Dixon, the spokesman of one giant paper company Kimberly-Clark, said that actually the recycled papers had been on market for so long time, and American could just buy them if they want.
“For bath tissue Americans in particular like the softness and strength that virgin fibers provide. It’s the quality and softness the consumers in America have come to expect,” Dixon said. Not only that, Dixon also said that the company used woods from sustainably farmed forests.
What To Do?
When you realize how much harm to the environment that soft tissue paper is one of the most harming product on earth, you might want to change the product you consume and use in daily activity. There are actually many options to replace it.
First step is washing yourself instead of wiping after you do the ‘thing’ in the toilet. Many countries are accustomed to use water instead of toilet paper to wash themselves after doing the ‘toilet business’, especially those Muslim and Hindu majority countries.
Research showed that not only washing yourself is cleaner than using toilet paper, but it is eco-friendlier and better in preventing cloaked toilets. Uniquely, although it is using water to wash yourself, you can actually save more water than using toilet paper.
Secondly, you can minimize your tissue paper consumption by using washcloths instead for cleaning. Washcloths can be used as many times as possible, compared to single-use tissue. Just imagine how many trees and water you can save by using washcloths.
While to replace the facial tissue, you might want to use handkerchief instead. Not only being eco-friendlier, but you can also get a more personal thing to wipe off your sweat. It is classic isn’t it to own a handkerchief like the old times in the 1960s?