Ecologists warn forests are being flushed away

Recycled is better for forests says the WWF. WWF/Kurt Prinz

WWF Switzerland has called for more recycled toilet paper and tissues to be used in Swiss households and workplaces.

This content was published on March 2, 2006 - 19:55

The conservation organisation said distributors and consumers have to change their attitudes, which threaten forests worldwide.

According to the WWF, only a small proportion of all tissues and toilet paper used in Switzerland is made from recycled products.

A study released by the organisation on Thursday says this reflects the limited choice in Swiss stores of recycled paper products, which represent just ten per cent of sales. The remaining 90 per cent are made from new wood pulp fibres.

The WWF reckons that to keep up with local demand, around 5,000 trees are sacrificed every day – a surface equivalent to 16 hectares of woodland.

"Whole forests are being chopped down and just end up being flushed down the toilet or in a rubbish bag," said Jim Leape, the director general of WWF International, in Zurich.

In 2004, the Swiss used more than 156,000 tons of toilet paper – a sixth more than in 2000 – or nearly one roll of toilet paper per person per week.

Local consumption is in fact high enough to make the Swiss the world's fourth biggest consumers of toilet paper and tissues, using around 21 kilograms per person per year.

The WWF says much of the paper used comes from trees cut down in Latin America, Asia or Russia, regions where it believes logging often goes uncontrolled.

Changing attitudes

The organisation's study on the availability of recycled paper in stores showed that only Switzerland's two biggest distributors, Migros and Coop, offered a complete range of this type of product in addition to more traditional items.

The country's other major distributors admitted they often do not stock recycled tissues or kitchen towels but only a few do not offer recycled toilet paper.

"A heavy toll is being exacted on forests," said Hans-Peter Fricker, head of WWF Switzerland. "It is vital to change both consumers' and distributors' attitudes towards this problem."

The organisation is urging consumers to opt for recycled-paper items. It added that people should tell their local stores they want to purchase these products and show there is a real demand.

The WWF said just five companies produce half of the recycled-paper products sold on the world market – and their share of European sales reaches 70 per cent.

It reckons these companies could easily encourage the use of recycled paper and help improve forest management practices around the world.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Tissue paper products represent one of the biggest non-food groups among consumer goods in Europe.
Annual consumption in Europe: 6.5 million tons.
Annual growth: up to 3%.
Home usage represents about 70% of market volume.
The biggest tissue suppliers in Europe are SCA Hygiene, Kimberly-Clark, Georgia-Pacific, Metsä Tissue, Sofidel, Kartogroup, Procter & Gamble.

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