What is even more amazing is that a study, known famously as the Garbage Project, by Professor William Rathje of the University of Arizona, it was found that the paper had not decomposed completely in a landfill even after 15 years. He found legible newspapers that had been buried more than 15 years ago.
We can bet Arthur Scott, when he came up with the idea of paper towels, upon receiving a railroad car full of too thick to use toilet paper, had not realised that what an environmental monster he was coming up with.
Say Goodbye To: Virgin Fibre Paper Towels
These are paper towels that have been made from virgin fibre or fibre which comes from trees. This means that trees have been chopped down to make this paper for you.
In 2005 statistics, the primary forest area was reduced globally by 60,000 square km per year (about the size of Ireland). While it’s impossible to get an exact count, at a rate of 50K to 100K trees per square km, this equates to 3 to 6 billion trees per year.
Do you remember seeing the video of a terrified mother and joey koala clinging to a tree being ripped by loggers. You can do your bit to save Australia’s natural diversity. Avoid using towels made from virgin paper.
Only If No Other Alternative: Partially Recycled Paper Towels
These paper towels as the name suggests have some recycled content. This is paper that instead of going into landfills and left there unattended for years, was recycled which is a far greener alternative.
The important part is that not all the paper in these towels is recycled. Some trees have still been cut down in the process of making this toilet roll.
Now You Are Entering Green Territory: 100% Recycled Paper Towels
As the name suggests, this is made entirely from recycled paper. So even though this paper towel also began its journey from the trees, no new tree was hacked and forest cover lost for this towel that you are using.
Instead, fibre from any of these sources is recycled:
- Damaged paper: paper which got damaged during storage, handling or transportation and was not fit for use and discarded,
- Scrap trimmings: ends of books, newspapers, magazines which are typically cut off and discarded,
- Office and factory waste: computer paper, newspapers, books, mail, cartons, boxes and other packing material, and
- Household waste: newspaper, magazines, catalogues.
Greener Still: Cotton Towels
Going down the cotton path is your greener option. As an added bonus, they are soft, super absorbent and comfortable to use as well, making them the preferred choice for most people.
Then they are greener than paper. However, the green advantage over paper can be lost easily if care is not taken in their washing etc. Here are a few things to be mindful of:
- Wash lightly soiled and heavily soiled towels separately using the appropriate washing cycle on your machine.
- Ensure that soiled napkins are pre-soaked.
- Always wash a full load of towels.
- Avoid using dryers, let the sunlight do the drying for you.
These simple tips will ensure that your cotton cloth options are indeed the greener option compared to paper towels.
Greenest: Recycled cloth or hemp/linen
We have saved the best for the last. Towels made from hemp or linen.
Cotton is a highly irrigated crop that also requires many pesticides during its growth. Linen which is made from the fibres of the flax plant, is significantly more environmentally friendly and more durable too.
And you don’t always need to buy new ones. Repurposing old linen is done for a purpose. Don’t throw away that cotton table cloth just because it looks slightly discoloured to be used in front of your clients. Sew it into a smart dishcloth or kitchen towel!
So how do you get these for your workplace?
At Alsco, we understand that cloth towels are not only the greener option, they are the preferred option for their comfort and absorbency as well. The smartly designed Continuous Towel dispenser ensures a hygienic dry with every use without the risk of cross-contamination. Do not delay in getting these for your workplace too.
Image courtesy: Nick Gray