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Choosing Green Paper Products
Having the option to buy environmentally friendly paper towel and toilet tissue products is a key consideration for many consumers when making a purchase. Eco-friendly products help achieve specific certifications while promoting a healthier environment for tenants, citizens, and employees. As more restroom manufacturers promote “green” products it's important to note what types of certification actually qualifies as a environmentally sustainable item. This is where the Green Seal certification comes into play – products with the Green Seal® logo are manufactured under strict environmental standards and have undergone proper green practices.
Without a doubt, choosing a paper towel or toilet tissue product that is 100% recycled is an important factor when looking for an eco-friendly paper product. According to Green Seal: “Every ton of 100% recycled paper (70 cases of roll towels) saves an estimated 4,100 kilowatt-hours of energy, 7,000 gallons of water, and 60 pounds of air pollutants/effluents” (1). Whereas some brands of so-called “green” restroom paper products claim to be eco-friendly, a lot of the times these products require more energy and water to produce compared to true environmentally friendly products. Green Seal certified paper products are made entirely from recovered materials – this helps to keep a larger amount of used paper from the waste stream. In order for a product to be equipped with the Green Seal® logo it must truly be 100% recycled (from either recovered or post-consumer waste) to meet the standard.
As far as 100% recycled paper products go there are two different types of materials: recovered and post-consumer. Recovered materials come from paper waste generated after the completion of the paper-making process. This includes: bindery trimmings, obsolete inventories, or rejected stock. In contrast, post-consumer recycled paper comes from items that have already been used by consumers – newspapers, old cardboard boxes, and office wastepaper are often among these products. Buying products with high-levels of post-consumer materials leads to the greatest amount of waste from getting to our landfills.
Bleaching and De-inking
Looking into the process of how paper is manufactured can give good insight into evaluating what makes truly green products. In order for paper towel and toilet tissue to adhere to the Green Seal standard products cannot be made with any added inks, dyes, fragrances or pigments. In addition to these standards, wastepaper is not allows to be bleached or de-inked with chlorine or any of its derivates such as hypochlorite and chlorine dioxide. Undergoing this type of eco-friendly process is known as chlorine free or PCF. It's important to note the difference between PCF and ECF processes. ECF stands for elemental chlorine free – this is not the same as PCF: elemental chlorine free means that paper products are bleached with a chlorine derivative such as chlorine dioxide rather than with chlorine gas. ECF as well as true chlorine bleaching is harmful to aquatic life and wildlife because dangerous chemicals are released when chlorine or its derivatives are used in the manufacturing process of towels and tissue.
Green Seal Product Packaging
Product packaging is a significant consideration in terms of what makes a product environmentally friendly. Since most product packaging ends up in the waste stream it's important that third party certification parties looking into this process. The Green Seal standard requires minimum product packaging by outlining the least amount of square feet requirements possible for bath and facial tissue products. In addition, recycled materials within the packaging and product composition (toilet paper cores and facial tissue boxes) must be made from 100% recycled materials. In addition, packaging cannot contain or be printed with toxic metals or other harmful chemicals including lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium in excess of 100 parts per million (above trace levels).
(1) Green Seal’s Choose Green Report – Bathroom Tissue and Paper Towels, March 2004. One ton equivalent is based upon an average roll towel case weight of 28.5 lbs.