Environment protection campaigners say extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply toilet paper made from virgin forest causes more damage than gas-guzzlers, fast food or McMansions, the Guardian UK reported.
Green campaigners maintain that the U.S. public’s insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply bathroom products is environmentally irresponsible.
Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said toilet paper is a product that people use for less than three seconds but the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous.
Hershkowitz believes future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age.
“Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution,” he said.
Experts say the production of toilet paper has a significant impact on the environment due to the chemicals used in pulp manufacturing and the process of cutting down forests.
Greenpeace has begun a campaign to raise consciousness among Americans about the environmental costs of their toilet habits and to counter an aggressive new push by the paper industry giants to market so-called luxury brands.
Hershkowitz said over 98 percent of the toilet roll sold in America comes from virgin forests. In Europe and Latin America, up to 40 percent of toilet paper comes from recycled products.
Greenpeace has responded by developing a cut-out-and-keep ecological ranking of toilet paper products.
“We have this myth in the U.S. that recycled is just so low quality, it’s like cardboard and is impossible to use,” said Lindsey Allen, the forestry campaigner of Greenpeace.
Campaigners hope the guide will counter an aggressive marketing push by the big paper product makers in which celebrities talk about the comforts of luxury brands of toilet paper and tissue.
Environmentalists say those specialty brands that put quilting and pockets of air between several layers of paper are especially damaging to the environment.
Luxury brands such as three-ply tissues or tissues infused with hand lotion are now considered part of the fastest-growing market share in a highly competitive industry, according to paper manufacturers such as Kimberly-Clark.
The company’s latest television advertisements show a woman caressing tissue infused with hand lotion.
The New York Times reported a 40 percent rise in sales of luxury brands of toilet paper in 2008, and as the recession deepens, paper companies are anxious to keep those percentages up.
Kimberly-Clark spent $25 million in its third quarter on advertising to persuade Americans against trusting their bottoms to cheaper brands, according to a recent Reuters report.
However, a spokesman for Kimberly-Clark said the company rejects the idea that it is pushing destructive products on an unwitting American public.
“Toilet paper and tissue from recycled fiber has been on the market for years. If Americans wanted to buy them, they could,” said Dave Dixon, a Kimberly-Clark spokesman.
Dixon said when it comes to 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,” he added.
Dixon said the company used products from farmed forests in Canada, where longer fibers in virgin wood are easier to lay out and fluff up for a softer tissue.
Statistics show that Americans already consume vastly more paper than any other country (3 times more per person than the average European, and 100 times more than the average person in China).
Reports show that barely a third of the paper products sold in America is from recycled sources and that the majority of it comes from virgin forests.
Hershkowitz believes it is overwhelmingly an American phenomenon and that people just don’t understand that softness equals ecological destruction.
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