The environmental has found it’s latest target, and it’s in your bathroom:
It is a fight over toilet paper: the kind that is blanket-fluffy and getting fluffier so fast that manufacturers are running out of synonyms for “soft” (Quilted Northern Ultra Plush is the first big brand to go three-ply and three-adjective).
It’s a menace, environmental groups say — and a dark-comedy example of American excess.
The reason, they say, is that plush U.S. toilet paper is usually made by chopping down and grinding up trees that were decades or even a century old. They want Americans, like Europeans, to wipe with tissue made from recycled paper goods.
It has been slow going. Big toilet-paper makers say that they’ve taken steps to become more Earth-friendly but that their customers still want the soft stuff, so they’re still selling it.
This summer, two of the best-known combatants in this fight signed a surprising truce, with a big tissue maker promising to do better. But the larger battle goes on — the ultimate test of how green Americans will be when nobody’s watching.
“At what price softness?” said Tim Spring, chief executive of Marcal Manufacturing, a New Jersey paper maker that is trying to persuade customers to try 100 percent recycled paper. “Should I contribute to clear-cutting and deforestation because the big [marketing] machine has told me that softness is important?”
He added: “You’re not giving up the world here.”
Toilet paper is far from being the biggest threat to the world’s forests: together with facial tissue, it accounts for 5 percent of the U.S. forest-products industry, according to industry figures. Paper and cardboard packaging makes up 26 percent of the industry, although more than half is made from recycled products. Newspapers account for 3 percent.
But environmentalists say 5 percent is still too much.
There are some sacrifices I might be willing to make for a better environment and some things that I’m just not willing to give up.
Guess which category good old American toilet paper falls into.