First published November 2006, last updated August 2013
Yep, even the humble facial tissue can have quite an impact on the environment.
I originally published this article back in 2006 after discovering the manufacturer of the tissues I used to purchase utilized pulp made from trees felled in old growth forests.
Imagine that; the destruction of virgin forests, just so I could blow my nose. It’s pretty disgusting. Aside from the source of the material used for making tissues, some manufacturers also use dangerous and highly toxic bleaching processes; plus fragrances and other additives with dubious origins.
The problem is you can’t always trust what’s written on the box. In the instance I mentioned above, the manufacturer stated that they sourced materials from renewable plantings and “sustainably managed forests” – it seems at that point that they were using the term rather loosely.
Since this article was first published, the manufacturer has made some progress – achieving Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation and switching to oxygen based bleaching in Australia. However, FSC accreditation has been criticized by some who say its standards are not always being applied in practice.
The best advice I could offer here is to look for solid statements such as “no bleaching”, “unbleached”, “100% recycled paper” and similar in facial tissue products. If you’re still not certain, most large companies offer consumer hotlines and you can gain clarification. If they can’t answer your questions or seem cagey about doing so, then that company may be contributing to the destruction of old growth forests.
Thankfully, in recent years tissues made entirely from recycled paper are now more commonplace and affordable. A few of the brand names offering facial tissues with 100% recycled content include 7th Generation, Green Forest, Ecosoft, Marcal and White Swan.
Aside from the tree issue, using recycled paper products brings other environmental benefits; such as using 60% less energy and 50% less water than making paper from new materials.
As for me, there’s not a box of tissues to be found at my place any more – I make do with 100% recycled paper towel. Sure, perhaps it’s not as pretty as boxed tissues I guess; but it does the job (and is cheaper).