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Toilet Paper and the Environment

Environmental Information and Toilet Paper Manufacturing

How many consumer products will one cord of wood yield?
•    1,000 pounds of toilet paper
•    30 Boston Rockers
•    12 dining room tables (each table seats eight)
•    7,500,000 toothpicks
•    460,000 personal checks
•    89,870 sheets of letter head bond paper (size 8 ½” s 11″)
•    61,370 standard #10 envelops
•    14,384,000 commemorative-size postage stamps
•    1,200 copies of the National Geographic
•    2,700 copies of the average daily paper (35 pages)
•    250 copies of the Sunday New York Times
•    942 one-pound books
•    the heating value of one ton of coal
•    the heating value of 200 gallons of fuel oil

What is recycled paper?
Recycled paper is paper that contains fiber from waste paper. However, there is no universal agreement on the exact definition of this. The Paper Users’ Environmental Forum Checklist states that recycled paper should include as high a proportion of post consumer waste fiber as possible. Post consumer waste is paper that has already been used for its final and intended purpose. Recycling paper is not only collecting wastepaper, but also using paper with recycled contents. Toilet paper with high-recycled content is neither expensive nor difficult to obtain.

How is recycled paper made?
Recycled paper, either pre or post-consumer material, needs to be washed and is often deinked prior to being pulped. The pulp then goes through a bleaching process to make it whiter.  There are many different types of bleaching processes; New Leaf Paper chooses a processed chlorine free process. Once the pulp is bleached, it enters a series of phases including
–    Paper forming section
–    Press section where water is removed by pressing the wet paper between rolls and felts
–    Drying section where the moisture content is reduced to the desired level
–    Calendering section where the paper is compacted and smoothed progressively as it travels down a stack of steel rolls.

After completion, the paper is stored in either rolls or cut into sheets.
How many trees can we save if we switched to recycled toilet paper?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States could save 470,000 trees, 1.2 million feet of cubic landfill space, and 169 million gallons of water if everyone in the US traded one roll of regular toilet paper for a recycled roll.  That’s just for one roll.  Imagine if we all made the permanent switch to recycled toilet paper!

Is recycled paper cheaper than non-recycled paper?
No. Recycled paper can actually be more expensive to manufacture, and therefore can possibly more expensive to purchase. Originally recycled paper was noticeably inferior to non-recycled paper, however today the gap has closed considerably and in many cases you cannot tell the difference. Request a grade chart from the resource page for more information.

Does using and producing recycled paper help save our natural resources?
In the early 1970s, an EPA study for Congress concluded that using one ton of 100% recycled paper saves 4,100 KWH of energy (enough to power the average home for six months) and 7,000 gallons of water. It also keeps more than 60 pounds of pollution out of the air and saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, which is increasingly important as many local landfills near their capacity. Paper industry representatives have estimated that one-ton of recycled paper saves approximately 17 trees.

Which paper manufacturers have the highest recycled paper utilization rate?
Tissue manufacturers have one of the highest recycled paper utilization rates in the paper and paperboard industry; over 60% in recent years. That means that tissue manufacturers require 60 tons of recovered paper for every 100 tons of tissue paper produced.

What is Paper Recovery?
Paper recovery is the practice of collecting paper for recycling or some other end use (such as composting). The recovery is accomplished in many ways. The most visible method is residential curbside recycling programs, which collects a variety of paper types generated by households.

However, the majority of recovered paper originates from the business and industrial sectors. About 20 percent of all paper recovered is “pre-consumer” paper. (ie paper that never reaches consumers). Pre-consumer paper is generated by sources such as converters (businesses that take rolls of paper and convert them into finished products) and printers (e.g., misprints and overruns).

In 15 years, the U.S. paper recovery rate has nearly doubled from approximately 25 percent in 1985 to almost 50 percent. Some grades are highly recovered; for example, old corrugated containers (OCC) has a 70% recovery rate.

What is “kenaf” and how is it used in papermaking?
Kenaf is a fibrous plant used as an alternative to wood for papermaking. Because kenaf contains less lignin than wood, less chemicals and energy are required to turn it into pulp. It also requires less bleaching, so it’s easier to bleach without chlorine. Kenaf has long fibers, which are a positive addition to the recycling stream. Related to hibiscus, kenaf is a fast-growing plant that can be harvested annually over several months, then compressed and stored for up to four years. It yields far more fiber per acre than a comparable-size tree plantation.

Who produces the largest source of tree-free paper?

One of the most complete sources for tree-free paper is the Oregon-based Fiber Options Paper Company catalog. Owner Karen Wood points out that plants like kenaf produce four times as much fiber per acre per year as trees, and that the plants’ shorter fibers also make them more easily recyclable. “You can also recycle tree-free paper right along with your wood-based paper,” she says.

Are there papermaking companies that actually use all paper alternatives for their production?
Fiber Options offers paper made from organic cotton (envelopes and letterhead, produced without using bleaches or dyes); kenaf (greeting cards, writing paper, toilet tissue, stationery); blends of hemp, straw, cotton and flax (letterhead, copy paper); and bamboo (heavy paper and cardstock). Wood plans to add handmade Native American paper, created from a variety of fibers, next spring. Fiber Options is also adding Arbokem paper from Canada, which uses pulped wheat straw (which is usually burned, creating pollution) as a base, combined with post-consumer waste.

How can hemp be used to make toilet paper?

Both the fiber (bast) and pulp (hurd) of the hemp plant can be used to make toilet paper. Fiber paper was the first kind of paper, and the first batch was made out of hemp in ancient China. Fiber paper is thin, tough, brittle, and a bit rough. Pulp paper is not as strong as fiber paper, but it is easier to make, softer, thicker, and preferable for most everyday purposes.

The toilet paper we use most today is a `chemical pulp’ paper made from trees. Hemp pulp toilet paper can be made without chemicals from the hemp hurd. Most hemp paper made today uses the entire hemp stalk, bast and hurd. High-strength fiber paper can be made from the hemp baste, also without chemicals. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, one acre of hemp can produce 4 times more paper than one acre of trees!

What other resources are good substitutes for wood in the production of paper?
Paper is now produced from kenaf, hemp, wheat straw, banana stalk, organic cotton, sugarcane, even denim scraps and recycled U.S. currency.

What is Kraft paper?
In 1883, a German inventor named Carl Dahl discovered that adding sodium sulfate to the soda process produced a very strong pulp. This discovery produced the Kraft process. Kraft means strength in German. During the early 1900’s, the Kraft process became the most important pulping process.

How is Recycled Kraft Paper used?
Sensitivity to the environment on the part of more and more people makes them willing to try this grade of paper. It has successfully been used as newspaper bottom wrap, toilet tissue, garment underlay paper, textile wrappers, interleavers, internal carton packaging, void filler, dust covers and box/tray liners. Other uses include bundling and stuffing.

How was the newsprint manufactured?

The first newsprint was created from linen and rags. The rags were bought in bulk from Chicago and Milwaukee, and treated for hours before being used in the newsprint production.

How was the rag stock made into paper?

The rags were dissected by stripping machines, and boiled in large vats for over twelve hours. After the boiling process, the rags are steamed, pressure-washed and rinsed for five hours. The rags are then bleached, drained, and “beaten” to reduce the bleaching chemicals and turn it into pulp. To attain the consistency that is needed, the pulp is transferred through tubes and valves. Eventually, it is pumped into the containers of the papermaking machine. The sheets that are made pass through two different rolls: a copper steam-heated drier roll and a polishing roll. The final product is divided into squares, packaged in volume, and shipped to vendors.

What is the term “Mill Broke” referring to in the papermaking industry?
Paper mills collect their internal paper and pulp waste and reuse it in other paper making processes. The waste is known as mill broke. Paper made from it is technically not recycled paper at all as it has never previously reached the public.

What is the difference between Thermo-Mechanical Pulping and Chemo-Thermo-Mechanical Pulping in the papermaking process?
Thermo-Mechanical Pulping (TMP) is a variation on the process that softens the wood chips with steam before they are ground, leaving more whole fibers intact. Its use is effectively limited to softwoods, whereas Chemo-Thermo-Mechanical Pulping (CTMP) extends the process to hardwoods by running sulfur-based chemicals through the wood before steaming. These techniques are ingenious and effective, except that chemicals removed from wood and organic sulfur compounds are often simply discharged by the mills directly into the ocean. Such emanation can be effectively treated and made safer through special processes, but it is only recently that paper manufacturers have begun to incorporate these processes into their routines.

How do you make paper from toilet paper?
1) You need toilet paper, liquid starch, a bowl, a screen, a cookie sheet, a towel, and a heavy book.
2) Tear the toilet paper into the size of a stamp. Keep at it until you fill about three-fourths of the bowl.
3) Pour the liquid starch in. Cover a lot of the toilet paper.
4) Mix the toilet paper and the starch with your hands. Mix it very well.
5) You can add glitter and/or little pieces of paper to make it look nice.
6) Go outside. Pour the mix on the screen. Spread it into the shape of paper you want.
7) Take the screen inside; put something on it that will absorb the starch like towels or newspaper.
8) Put a heavy book on top of it to press it down.
9) Wait 24 hours. By then it should be done.

How many of the world’s trees are cut down for paper manufacturing?

Paper manufacturing accounts for 28% of all of the trees that are cut down.  Thankfully though, more trees are planted every year than are chopped down. On an average, when a tree is harvested for making paper, five more are planted in its place.

How many paper mills exist in the United States?

There are more than 500 paper mills in the United States.

Can we expect a growth in U.S. paper consumption?
Yes. Worldwide paper consumption is projected to expand 46 percent by the year 2040.

When did “wood” paper production begin?

Paper production from wood did not actually begin until the late 1800s.

Which type of tree is grown for paper production?
Most softwood trees used for paper come from forests called “managed timberlands”. Even though the trees in these timberlands may look like “woods,” they are an actual agricultural crop – like vegetables on a farm. The trees are grown primarily for being made into paper products for consumer use.

Will we run out of trees if we continue to cut them down for the production of all of the world’s toilet paper?
No. More trees are planted every year than are chopped down. This is due in most part to the success of “managed timberlands”. Trees are a renewable resource. As long as we manage timberland and plant trees to replace the ones cut down, trees will continue to grow and grow forever. On an average, when a tree is harvested for making paper, five more are planted in its place.

If “saving” trees isn’t the issue, why do we want to recycle paper?
Paper is one of the few consumer products that is fairly easy to recycle. It can be made into many new products including corrugated boxes, packaging, newsprint, toilet paper, and writing paper, among other things. Helping to reduce the amount of paper in landfills is the most important task. Since each of us uses an average of 700 pounds of paper products per year, paper makes up almost a third of the material that goes into landfills. This is the main reason we should recycle paper!

Does most of the paper manufactured in the U.S. come from whole trees?
No. Over half of the raw material used to make paper in the U.S. comes from recovered paper and the wood waste (such as wood chips and sawdust) left behind from lumber manufacturing.

After the papermaking process is complete, how big is a finished roll of paper?

A finished roll of paper can measure up to 30 feet long and weigh as much as 20 tons! The most efficient paper plants can produce over 1,000 miles of paper a day!

What is Dioxin and how is it found in paper?

Dioxin, a bleaching byproduct, is one of the most toxic human-made chemicals. Once released into the environment, it is persistent because natural bacteria cannot effectively break it down. “Dioxin” is often used as a catchall term for three acutely toxic chemical groups: true dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). It is found throughout the pulp and paper manufacturing processes, its wastes and even in the paper products themselves.

Are there toxins, such as Dioxide, in chlorinated toilet paper?
Yes. Many pulp and paper mills use chlorine-based chemicals to bleach pulp white. These chemicals react with organic molecules in the wood and other fibers to create many toxic by-products, including dioxin. Chlorinated toilet paper contains the highest amount of furans out of all cosmetic tissues. When we buy toilet paper bleached with chlorine, we support pulp and paper mills that pollute our environment with dioxin and other toxic organochlorines.

What are the long-term physical effects of Dioxin in the environment?
· Cancer occurs in humans at only 10 times the dioxin level now in our bodies, on average.
· Behavioral effects and learning disorders occur in monkeys at only 10 times the dioxin level now in our bodies.
· Decreased immune responses occur in monkeys and mice at 25% BELOW the dioxin level now in our bodies.
· Decreased male sex hormone occurs in humans at only 1.3 times the dioxin level now in our bodies.
· Diabetes occurs in humans at only 10 times the dioxin level now in our bodies.
· Sperm loss occurs in humans at only 10 times the dioxin level now in our bodies.
· Endometriosis occurs in humans at only 10 times the dioxin level now in our bodies.

When did the chemical Dioxin become such a huge problem in the environment?
Dangerous dioxin contamination has been part of our world only since the turn of the century–tests for dioxin in lake sediments and tissues of ancient humans show much lower levels of dioxin than seen in current generations. It entered our environment in significant amounts with industrial expansion and the post-World War II explosion of the chlorine and petrochemical industries.

Who is in the most danger of being exposed to the bleaching agent, Dioxin?
Some of us are at much higher risk. For instance, the following people may be exposed to higher dioxin levels:
-People who eat a lot of fish
-Workers involved in incineration operations
-Workers producing and handling pesticides
-Workers at wood treatment facilities using pentachlorophenol
-Workers in the bleach plant at pulp and paper mills
-Fire fighters and people exposed to some industrial accidents and toxic waste sites
-Nursing infants
-And people exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

How can “chlorine-free” toilet paper make a difference in our environment?

Paper bleached with chlorine has huge environmental costs, and U.S. paper manufacturers are now making important decisions about how to change this. A switch to oxygen-based chlorine-free bleaching can eliminate dioxin pollution from pulp and paper mills. Mills are now deciding whether to invest in this totally chlorine-free technology, or a different process, “elemental chlorine-free” bleaching–which still uses a form of chlorine and still produces dioxin. Both processes are allowed by the new rules drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency called the “Cluster Rules”. The outcome of these decisions will have a profound impact on our environment and our health.

What other bleaching options do toilet paper manufacturers use for their products?
Bleaching can also be accomplished by other methods. Many mills now use chlorine dioxide, which produces less dioxin, but still pollutes our waters with many other organochlorines, and still has effluent so toxic that it causes genetic damage in fish even when it is very diluted. The best bleaching option for the environment is oxygen-based, without any chlorine chemicals. This includes “totally chlorine-free” and “processed chlorine-free” bleaching. These methods use oxygen, ozone or hydrogen peroxide to bleach the pulp. Initially it costs more to switch a mill to oxygen-based bleaching, but the operating costs are lower, which helps recover this investment in the long run. Hydrogen Peroxide can also be substituted for Chlorine in the bleaching process of paper, as well.

Which bleaching process is the most popular among toilet paper manufacturers and consumers?
Elemental Chlorine-Free (ECF) pulp, bleached with chlorine dioxide, continues to dominate the world bleached chemical pulp market. By the end of 1999, ECF production reached 48.5 million tons, totaling more than 62% of the world market share. ECF is, by far; the most environmentally preferred paper worldwide.

How will I know if I am buying unbleached, environmentally safe toilet paper?
The paper industry has recognized the consumers” interest in getting chlorinated chemicals out of the bleaching process. You will be able to choose the right paper, made without ANY chlorine, if you remember just a few simple terms:
· “UNBLEACHED”- Recycled Papers that have NOT been re-bleached
· “PROCESSED CHLORINE-FREE”- Recycled papers bleached with oxygen, ozone or hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine chemicals
· “TOTALLY CHLORINE-FREE”- Non-recycled papers bleached with oxygen, ozone or hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine chemicals
· “ELEMENTAL CHLORINE-FREE”- Papers bleached with chlorine dioxide instead of chlorine gas. These chemicals still contain chlorine, so this process still produces dioxins!

What are the Paper Mill Cluster Rules?
The Paper Mill Cluster Rules are a set of rules drafted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and recently signed into law, which attempt to address dioxin pollution in water, air and solid waste from pulp and paper mills. It requires all mills to eliminate their use of chlorine gas in the bleaching process. The use of elemental chlorine-free bleaching (chlorine dioxide) is still allowed.