In SA, we’re no loo roll softies

2009-03-06 00:00

IT’S been described in a media report as “one of the greatest excesses of our age”, more damaging to the environment than gas-guzzling 4x4s or the fast food industry.

We’re talking about the harmless-looking “luxury” multi-ply toilet roll.

According to recent reports in the Guardian and New York Times, one-ply toilet paper — made from recycled fibres — doesn’t meet Americans’ high standards for softness, strength and colour.

This means that 98% of toilet rolls sold in the United States are made from virgin wood, some of which is sourced from Canada’s ancient Boreal forest.

Greenpeace has launched a pocket-sized guide to raise awareness around the environmental costs of Americans’ toilet paper choices and to counter a reported hike in sales of luxury brands.

The South African Paper Manufacturers’ Association (Pamsa) is adamant it’s a different matter here, with the luxury toilet paper and facial tissue market estimated to be only 12%.

“Our consumers are very different. The market for one-ply is much bigger than that for two-ply and many consumers buy 100% recycled toilet tissue,” said Pamsa executive director Jane Molony.

Molony said that while almost all two- and three-ply toilet and facial tissue is made using virgin pulp, it is sourced from responsibly managed forests, 90% of which are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

“There is nothing wrong or environmentally unfriendly about making paper of any sort from trees farmed in this manner,” she said.

Almost all one-ply toilet rolls, kitchen towels, wipes, serviettes and hand towels are made from recycled fibre. This is despite a shortage of recovered paper in South Africa, said Molony.

In South Africa, the tissue market is dominated by Kimberly-Clark SA (Kleenex and Baby Soft) and Nampak Tissue (Twinsoft and Twinsaver).

Kimberly-Clark’s Baby Soft comes with “micro pocket technology” and claims to be “soft, thick and more absorbent with a silky smooth touch”. Its Aloe Vera range of luxury toilet paper, infused with aloe vera, has won this year’s Product of the Year title in a national survey conducted by market researchers Nielsen.

Consumer marketing director Joanne Siney-Gould said the award relates to innovation, not sales.

Nampak Tissue’s marketing manager Hugh Wilson says his company “drives” the one-ply market at 43%. For their smaller two-ply market, fibre is imported from “sustainable” sources in Turkey.

Kimberly-Clark holds a 28% share of the total South African tissue market. A corporate “fact sheet” supplied by Kimberly-Clark in response to questions about the company’s use of virgin forests for toilet paper, reassuringly states that by 2009, the company’s use of fibre from Canada’s Boreal forest will be reduced by nearly 70% from 2007 levels.

The company says it does not “knowingly use fibre from forests requiring protection”.

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