Consumers are associating brown papers with green advantages, say companies that sell paper products. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that many retail facilities have made the switch from using white napkins, towels and other such paper, to brown colored options. And consumers are assuming the products are made with recycled materials or didn't involve whitening chemicals.

The retailers are opting for the recycled brown paper because of what the color "symbolizes" to customers. Tests in a handful of restaurants showed the brown napkins made customers "feel like they were doing something good for the environment."

However, according to the WSJ article, white paper can be made from 100 percent recycled fibers and whitened without the chemical chlorine, traditionally the primary complaint against it.

Paper bleached without chlorine is usually whitened with a combination of hydrogen peroxide, oxygen or ozone, chemicals environmentalists have few complaints about. The most harmful, pure form of chlorine, what is called elemental chlorine, is no longer used to bleach paper in the United States. Recycled paper is sometimes slightly rougher than paper made of virgin fibers from trees because it is made of shorter fibers or comes from different sources, not because of the bleaching process.

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