The True Cost of Paper Goods
Many consumers often think that if they use paper products over cotton and other products, that they are being more eco-friendly. That is because paper is viewed as being biodegradable. Biodegradation is defined as the chemical breakdown of materials by the environment. Organic material can be degraded with oxygen or without oxygen, depending on the environment. Biodegradable matter is generally organic material such as plant and animal matter and other substances originating from living things. Therefore, paper often fits in this category as it comes from trees, unless it's been treated by material that may not allow the paper to break down.
One example that stands out is toilet paper. Allen Hershkowitz, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, found that toilet paper is a product that people use for a very short amount of time which has ecological consequences due to its being manufactured from trees. The toll it takes on the environment is enormous and may outweigh the benefit of its uses. Making toilet paper from virgin wood is worse by far than a lot of other non-green behaviors we engage in on a daily basis. Other experts say that the production of paper for tissues and such has a significant impact on the environment due to the chemicals, such as bleaches, 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 luxury brands. They are trying instead to push for the kind of paper that is made from recycled goods only.
Hershkowitz once stated over 98% of the toilet paper sold in the US comes from virgin forests. In Europe and Latin America, up to 40% of toilet paper comes from recycled products. This is clearly is a sign that change is needed in our consumption and manufacturing practices and patterns.
Greenpeace has gone so far as to develop a chart that shows the ecological ranking of toilet paper products. A member of Greenpeace is trying to debunk the myth that the toilet paper made from recycled paper is less quality and instead show what a wonderful product it really is. The group is working aggressively on other programs to protect forests and streams from paper processing problems, too. Join this initiative by changing the way you consume paper and the paper you consume.