We all are fairly aware of how paper products destroy forests, but we also are becoming more aware of how the bleach in the new paper is toxic. When we choose to use chlorine free paper, it prevents the dioxins and other poisons created during the manufacturing process. When these accumulate in aquatic environments and in the air from they are known to cause cancer.
Chlorine is used to give paper its whiteness and to remove the agent in wood that causes it to be yellowed, known as “lignin.” Wood based paper in its natural state is a brown color as shown by cardboard boxes.
There are four types of chlorine free paper:
- Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) Paper
- Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) Paper
- Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) Paper
- Unbleached Paper
Elemental chlorine free paper is made with a chlorine derivative, chlorine dioxide. Processed chlorine free paper means that recycled paper has not been re-bleached with chlorine or any of its compounds. Totally chlorine free uses no chlorine or its derivatives. Of these, unbleached can be considered the safest because it doesn’t use anything to bleach the products. As another eco-bonus, these are often made from recycled products. There are a number of chlorine free products associations to make sure that consumers are informed about paper products such as the Green Seal http://www.greenseal.org and the Chlorine Free Products Association http://www.chlorinefreeproducts.org/.
In addition to saving our air and water environments, going chlorine free has additional benefits. There are also savings of a million pounds of carbon dioxide, a million kilowatt hours of energy, a million gallons of water, and thousands of trees. Though it hasn’t been proven yet, there is supposed to be even better-cleaning power with unbleached paper. The fibers are less processed, so they can scour more.
There are several ways to buy chlorine free paper for cleaning and other purposes. The brands that are the most common are North River and Seventh Generation. There will be more variety once there is serious legislation about phasing out bleaching paper in the U.S. The Natural Resource Defense Council http://www.nrdc.org/ has a list that is constantly updated. The site also provides good consumer action tips and alternatives to using virgin paper products or bleaching.