BACKGROUND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH ISSUES
At many workplaces, paper towels are the highest volume waste material produced in kitchen, restroom, maintenance shop, and clean-up areas, and it is safe to assume that at least one type of tissue product – bathroom tissue, facial tissue, paper napkins, and/or paper towels – is found in most American workplaces and households. With such widespread use of tissue products, buying processed chlorine-free tissue products with higher levels of recycled content – preferably postconsumer – can significantly reduce environmental impacts. For example, more than half a million trees could be saved if every household in the United States replaced just one roll of 100 percent virgin fiber paper towels (70 sheets) with 100 percent recycled-content towels.
Environmental and Health Issues
What could be more wasteful than using virgin fiber to make janitorial paper products – products that are designed to be thrown away after a single use? Look for janitorial products with 100 percent recycled content and the highest possible levels of postconsumer content. Postconsumer fiber comes from paper – primarily from office paper collection programs – that has been used by consumers and then collected through recycling programs. Most janitorial paper products – bathroom and facial tissues, paper towels, and toilet seat covers – are available with postconsumer content, and many have very high levels of postconsumer content. Using recycled content janitorial paper products saves trees and keeps waste paper out of landfills.
What to look for: Look for products with 100 recycled content and higher levels of postconsumer content.
Additional benefits come from choosing paper products made with less or no chlorine. Bleaching (whitening) paper pulp with elemental chlorine or chlorine compounds produces chlorinated pollutants, such as dioxin, in the wastewater stream. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, dioxin “is a toxic industrial pollutant that is … persistent in the environment. It accumulates in the fat tissue of animals and humans and has been linked to adverse human health effects, including cancer and toxicity to reproductive, immunologic, and endocrine systems.” Totally chlorine-free bleaching, which uses alternative bleaching agents, such as oxygen and peroxide, eliminates dioxins and other chlorinated pollutants from the wastewater stream. In order to reduce potential risks, a number of manufacturers are switching to chlorine-free technologies.
What to look for: When buying janitorial paper products, choose chlorine-free or less-chlorinated products by looking for the following language on labels and in catalogs:
- “Bleached without chlorine or chlorine derivatives”
- “Totally chlorine-free” (TCF). This applies to virgin paper fiber that is unbleached or processed without chlorine or chlorine derivatives.
- “Processed chlorine-free” (PCF) applies to recycled paper fiber that is unbleached or bleached without chlorine or chlorine derivatives; however, since some of the waste paper being recycled may previously have been bleached with chlorine, recycled paper products labeled PCF cannot be labeled TCF. If the final product contains any virgin fiber, then that fiber must be TCF.
- “Elemental chlorine-free” (ECF) paper fiber is bleached with chlorine derivatives that produce fewer dioxins than elemental chlorine.
In papermaking, a fiber is a tiny thread-like unit of vegetable growth. Fiber is the main component of janitorial paper products, and it can come from sources such as trees or recovered paper.
What to look for: Here is a hierarchy of fiber to consider, starting with the most environmentally preferable fiber:
- Postconsumer fiber
- Secondary fiber
- Virgin fiber from sustainably harvested non-old growth and non-endangered forests. Note: Whenever possible, avoid janitorial paper products that contain any virgin material.
Fiber to Avoid
Forests can be rich sources of biodiversity. They are important for fish and wildlife habitat; provide food, shelter, and aesthetic and recreational benefits to humans; help slow global warming by storing and sequestering carbon; and help regulate local and regional rainfall. Avoid janitorial paper products that contain any virgin fiber, especially fiber from old growth forests, endangered forests, and unsustainably harvested forests. These terms may be defined differently by different parties, so to err on the safer side, look for janitorial paper products that contain the highest possible amount of recycled – preferably postconsumer – material. Postconsumer material is a low-risk fiber source.
People use more folded towels than roll towels because the easy accessibility of folded towels makes them readily available to grab by the handful. By switching from folded towels to hardwound roll towels combined with controlled-use dispensers, you can reduce toweling waste by 25 to 35 percent. In addition, roll towels require less packaging and storage space. If folded towels must be used, remember that extremely thin folded towels may tear when pulled from a dispenser, causing waste when users grab handfuls of shredded towels.
- Switching to electric hand dryers or cloth towels can reduce paper waste.
- Tissue and towel rolls can be produced without paper cores.
With so many things to consider in choosing your paper supplies, it is nice to know when you call von Drehle corporation, you never have to Press 1 to talk to a live person. Instead, you always get to speak with a courteous, experienced professional who is there to help. We strive to make sure we meet the needs of our customers and distributors. By maintaining a high volume of products in all of our manufacturing/distribution centers, von Drehle boasts a 98% fill rate for towel, tissue and dispenser products and we strive to fill orders within 24 hours. If you are looking for one of the best suppliers of towel, tissue, and dispenser products, feel free to give us a call today at 1.800.438.3631, and we can help you find one of our 300 local distributors to assist you.