Green group gives U.S. toilet paper makers failing grade over forest use

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Top U.S. makers of toilet paper got failing marks on Wednesday from a leading U.S. environmental group that criticized them for using fiber from Canada’s old-growth forests - trees considered key to limiting climate change.

Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark and Georgia-Pacific rely on virgin forest fiber to make their tissue products rather than using recycled alternatives “despite the dire consequences that practice has for our planet’s future,” the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said.

The companies’ single-use tissue products, including toilet paper, are typically made from wood pulp, mostly obtained by logging in Canada’s old-growth northern, or boreal, forests, the NRDC said in a report.

The giant boreal forest that stretches across northern North America plays a crucial role in combating climate change because it absorbs and stores carbon dioxide, a major contributor to planetary heating, the report noted.

“Tissue manufacturers need to acknowledge the facts and take full responsibility for the role they play in fueling climate change and forest destruction,” the NRDC wrote.

Frenzied competition for toilet paper at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak helped underscore the need for more sustainable supplies, the group said.

Choices consumers make in buying toilet paper and other products affect “the health of our climate and of future generations”, it said.

Among the brands the NRDC gave failing grades were Cottonelle Ultra, Scott 1000 and Scott Comfort Plus made by Kimberly-Clark; Charmin Ultra made by Procter & Gamble; and Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Aria and Quilted Northern EcoComfort made by Georgia-Pacific.

In response, Georgia-Pacific said it was committed to sustainable forestry, makes sure its virgin fiber is responsibly sourced and complies with Canada’s stringent laws requiring companies to replant and restore forest land.

Procter & Gamble said Charmin also was sourced from responsibly managed forests. “For every tree we use, at least one is regrown,” a spokeswoman said in emailed comments.

Kimberly-Clark said it has committed to reducing its use of virgin wood fiber from natural forests by half in its tissue products by 2025, by switching to recycled and other fibers.

The Forest Products Association of Canada took issue with the NRDC report, saying the environmental group “misrepresents our industry” when it claims toilet paper production puts boreal forests at risk.

“In reality, forest products from Canada’s boreal region can be counted among the most responsibly made in the world,” the industry group said in a statement, noting that sustainable forest management is strictly regulated by the government.

But replanted forests cannot replace old growth tree stands with higher biodiversity, the NRDC said.

Its scorecard ranked products on their content, which ranges from paper once tossed into recycling bins to paper and pulp manufacturing waste or virgin fiber, as well as on other factors.

The top-ranked toilet paper was produced by Who Gives A Crap, a firm that sells a 100% Recycled brand toilet paper made with 95% consumer-recycled paper.

Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit