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Toilet makers have less available recycled fibres due to a global shift to digital

A global shift to digital is leading to a shortage of recycled paper, the tissue sector has warned.

As increasing numbers of people turn to remote work, and offices become more digital environments, suppliers had less paper waste to turn into recycled paper for the likes of toilet tissue and cardboard packaging, an expert report warned this week.

The report came from consumer organisation Ethical Consumer, which showed the three main toilet paper suppliers – Kimberly-Clark, Sofidel and Essity – had all cut the amount of recycled fibres in tissues since the pandemic.

Andrex maker Kimberly-Clark cut the amount of recycled fibre in its tissue and personal care products to 19.3% in 2021, down from 29.7% in 2011.

Regina maker Sofidel reduced recycled fibre use from 8.9% in 2019 to 7.3% in 2021, and Velvet parent company Essity decreased the amount of recycled paper in its lines from 40% in 2018 to 36% in 2022.

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Ethical Consumer also said the use of virgin wood pulp was fuelling deforestation as companies were sourcing more virgin pulp.

This was only set to worsen as less paper waste became available in the market to be turned into recycled fibres, said Chris Forbes, boss of bamboo toilet paper company Cheeky Panda.

“Despite all the major brands issuing statements there is no problem, clearly there is a lack of supply because people are more digital so less newspapers, books and office supplies paper waste,” Forbes said. “I can’t see this trend changing. In fact I see less available recycled paper as people move more digital.”

Forbes claimed the paper and pulp industry were simply going to “cut down more trees” when faced with shrinking availability of recycled paper waste as they were “not interested in alternative fibres”.