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After light bulbs and plastic straws…toilet paper

ImpactAlpha, Sept. 16 – Another everyday staple is under scrutiny. “The Issue With Tissue” from environmental watchdog NRDC details the environmental and social harm wrought by Procter & Gamble, Georgia Pacific, Kimberly Clark and other tissue paper producers. Their preference for virgin pulp means the clear cutting of global forests needed for carbon storage and habitat for animals and people.

The NRDC’s sustainability scores: Charmin Ultra, a leading brand owned by P&G, failed, as did with Quilted Northern and Angel Soft, both from Koch-owned Georgia Pacific. Scott from Kimberly Clark notched a slightly less dismal ‘D.’ (Note: P&G CEO David Taylor is a signatory to the Business Roundtable’s recent statement on the purpose of corporations.)

  • Flush market. The average American uses three rolls of toilet paper a week, accounting for 20% of global tissue consumption and $31 billion in sales a year. Globally, consumption is expected to rise 6% a year. 
  • Climate threat. Canada’s ancient boreal forest, the “Amazon of the North,” holds softwood pulp prized by makers of tissue products for the U.S. market. Clear-cutting releases about 26 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. That’s 12% of the annual emissions Canada agreed to cut by 2030 under the Paris Agreement.
  • Alt tissue. Alternatives to the “tree-to-toilet” pipeline including recycled content or sustainable fibers such as wheat straw and bamboo. The Forest Stewardship Council’s certification aims to mitigate the harm from virgin pulp harvesting. The NRDC gave A grades to toilet paper from companies including Green Forest, Natural Value, and Seventh Generation based on recycled content, bleaching process, and fiber sourcing.

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