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Soft toilet paper is ruining the planet--huh?

Week of 9 Mar 2009

Click here, then click "Trans lator" in top navigation bar for other languages.

Allen Hershkowitz, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and (I perceive) a long time enemy of the forest products industry, pronounced last week that using soft toilet paper is harmful to the planet's health.

On one hand, I am encouraged that we have cleaned up our act to the point that what we use to clean our behinds is all Hershkowitz apparently has left to complain about. On the other, thanks for hitting our fine industry when it's down, Allen.

Of course, the usual suspects, the New York Times and Greenpeace, jumped on the bandwagon and joined the chorus of those shaming us for wanting a soft product for this delicate task. Their point is that we should only be using toilet paper made from recycled materials. Hey, why not go back to corncobs and Sears catalogs? Oops, there are no more Sears catalogs--see a couple of paragraphs down. As for corncobs, maybe the gasoline stations could put a sack full of them next to the ethanol pumps.

None of these groups can see any further than the ends of their noses. Coincidentally, written earlier last week and published on March 1, 2009 to the exclusive subscribers of the Thompson Private Letter (I hope they won't mind in this one case me offering publicly this article for which they paid good money), I had said the following:

"Long term, recycled tissue faces a fiber shortage

"Unlike most other recycled grades, recycled tissue obviously does not draw its fiber source from its own consumer usage. It has to rely on other grades.

"If you have recently walked through a recycled fiber warehouse at a tissue mill, you may be struck by the contents: nearly all the material there is shredded forms and other such material, primarily from banks and hospitals.

"Banks are working furiously to eliminate printed forms. Most credit card statements and bank statements now cost extra if you want them printed on paper.

"Hospitals are another matter. Hospitals have been slow to move to electronic data collection and manipulation. However, in some of the schemes being talked about in the United States at least, a large part of streamlining the health care system is moving record keeping to electronic formats.

"Another source in these warehouses, difficult to separate on its own as it is also shredded, is postal 'dead letter' mail--overages of bulk mail and so forth. However, with the postal system discussing going to five days of delivery service, perhaps this entity is giving recycled tissue producers an early wake-up call as to conditions forthcoming.

"Finally, the disappearance of magazines only exacerbates the problem.

"TPL thinks recycled tissue will be looking long and hard for a plentiful and economical fiber source in 5 to 10 years."

If the environmental groups and their proxies follow their usual pattern, they will try to shame the general population into using only tissue they bless (the NRDC website already has a list of toilet tissues they like). However, I see another ominous potential trend at work here: I suspect their long term objective is to dictate by law what the content of all our pulp and paper products are allowed to be. This is not as far-fetched as it may seem. After all, power plants essentially have dictated to them what resources they are allowed to use for energy production, why not dictate to a resource consuming industry such as ours what we are allowed to use? Again, I really believe this is the end game--dictating all the input components in all paper and paperboard grades through environmental law.

Of course, the whole present argument is illogical, for toilet tissue made of virgin fiber can be also viewed as a carbon sink. I thought this was something the environmentalists wanted.

In the past, I have commented about how our own legacy institutions in the pulp and paper industry have miserably failed at standing up for our industry. They have chosen to use politeness and decorum against the shrill and the nutty. It hasn't worked. In this case, I have thought of a way to fight back that each of us can personally accomplish with politeness and decorum. What I have done, and encourage you to do, is the following. I went to my local grocery store and bought a four-pack of the softest virgin toilet paper I could find (cost: USD 1.28). Then I put a label on it and first class postage (cost: USD 3.04) and mailed it to:

Allen Hershkowitz
Natural Resources Defense Council
40 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011

It does not need further wrapping. To make it even easier for you, I have prepared a printable label (click on "More" below) which you can tape to your package. Just add postage.

You can do this, or, a group of you can go together and ship him a case. You'll stimulate the economy and show how you feel about our fine industry. Should you wish to ship by courier service, and need NRDC's phone number for the waybill, it is 212-727-2700. I think I may just monitor their site and send more every time Allen brings up the subject. I would like for him to think, "If I make a statement or give a speech, trees fall." I certainly don't want to stifle his right to free speech, any more than I want him to stifle my right to send him a "gift" (which if he keeps it up, just might turn into nice, soft toilet paper I have used--it wouldn't be "virgin" then--and could be sent in an envelope, a shrill and nutty response for sure). Of course, I would never suggest you really do what I just described in the previous parenthetical passage, it might lead to transmitting disease. I just want him to realize there are consequences when he speaks on this subject.

By the way, just for those that may get a copy of this article and do a little research on my background with the intent of disparaging me, I'll save them the "ah ha!" by disclosing that my long ago introduction to the pulp and paper industry was as an employee of what I still consider an excellent company, Procter & Gamble, working on Charmin (I left them on 1 Oct 78). Of course, you regular readers already knew this.

For safety this week, let's just say lobbing a four-pack of tissue is a far safer way to protest than lobbing rocks. One could even say it is kinder and gentler.

Be safe and we will talk next week.


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