Why we make toilet paper without plastic
Understanding the origins of plastic pollution
99% of plastics are derived from fossil fuels. Ethylene—the building block of most single-use plastic is still, in relative terms, cheap to produce. Most of the plastic wrap around toilet paper and paper towels is made from film plastic, usually low-density polypropylene or LDPE plastic number. 4. Although often marked with chasing arrows or a recycling symbol, much of the plastics in Aotearoa are not recycled.
According to this report, Reducing the impact of plastic on our environment published by the Ministry for the Environment, plastic collected for recycling is roughly 45,000 tonnes, and 90 percent of that recycling is exported. However, much of the plastic we put out for recycling is landfilled—380,000 tonnes of it where sits for hundreds of years, emitting methane, which is terrible for the planet. And considering that only 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled globally, recycling is ineffective.
Is making plastic fence posts in Aotearoa truly circular?
The Love NZ Soft Plastic Recycling Scheme which began in 2015, was abruptly suspended in 2018 recently returned to most parts of the country. Dunedin for instance experienced a three year hiatus. Initially, all that soft plastic was shipped to Melbourne for processing—there’s a financial cost, unaccounted environmental costs. It was not until 2019 when Future Post took over-processing, reducing a 400-tonne stockpile to make fence posts that the scheme could return. During this time, 2nd Life Plastics, Pact Recycling, TC Transcontinental Packaging, Polyprint Packaging and saveBoard began accepting soft plastic collections. This article notes that 20 to 30 companies like Future Post are required to reduce the soft plastics stockpile. This is not sustainable. It is not a solution.
New Zealand is one of the world’s most wasteful countries. According to Environment Minister, David Parker, it is estimated that in Aotearoa, we throw away an estimated 159g of plastic waste per person per day. Future Post founder Jerome Wenzlick said the company processes around 70 tonnes of soft plastics every month—the equivalent of 10 million bread bags, chip packets, frozen food bags or toilet roll wrappers. Those figures are insane.
Yes, we all need to be more aware of what we are consuming and wasting. However, New Zealand has taken an ad hoc approach to recycling, generally speaking, we have poor waste infrastructure and waste recovery. Packaging NZ believes the government should develop a national packaging strategy as opposed to dealing with packaging entirely from a waste producer perspective. And we agree. If New Zealand is meet the recently signed Plastic Packaging Declaration agreements, we must shift from our current linear economy based on the take-make-dispose model which is contributing to vast amounts of waste generation and pollutes our environment.
What is the circular economy?
Inspired by natural cycles, the circular economy aims to close the loop of industrial material flows by using waste as a resource to produce new products and services. Without significant investment in composting infrastructure, food waste, compostables, bio-plastics—and plastics will continue to fill up our landfills.
Considering the above, you’re quite probably asking yourself: What can I do? Becoming more environmentally conscious is a learning process and we won’t always make the best decisions at first. Or all those decisions at once. What’s important is that you’re making a better choice today than you did yesterday.
What we can do is build little sustainable worlds inside our homes and our friends will see, our families and more of us will do it. Every dollar we spend is a vote, so every time we buy plastic, we’re telling those companies to keep on producing it. While it might remain challenging to forgo bags of pasta and spinach, there are some products where there are plastic-free options—bread and toilet paper for example. Perhaps one of your decisions will be to not give any more of your money to toilet paper companies that wrap their rolls in plastic.
Here is a store locator for soft plastics collection points. If one of your decisions is to make the switch to EcoRoll, then you won’t be taking the plastic wrap from your toilet paper for soft plastic recycling.