green approval

Manufacturers weigh in on towel and tissue trends and how distributors can better educate end user customers on green and sustainability initiatives that will continue to grow.  


Joe Raccuia
Owner & President
Morcon Tissue


Laura Ashley
Marketing Manager
Resolute Tissue


Mohamed Abaas
Sustainability Specialist
Sofidel America

What are some of the largest misconceptions about “green” paper products and how are you overcoming them?  

Raccuia — We offer both 100 percent recycled products as well as 100 percent virgin products produced with rapidly renewable raw materials. One misconception is that "green" products do not perform as well as the comparable. Additionally, just because an item may not have a green certification, does not me it wasn’t produced through a sustainable process or with sustainable, recycled fibers. 

Abaas — A large misconception is that tissues made from alternative fibers or recycled paper are more sustainable or greener than tissues made from virgin fibers. Helping facility managers see the full picture of manufacturing processes by educating customers about sustainability and what truly sustainability concepts are important in breaking these misconceptions. Understanding life cycle analysis or assessment is key to choosing truly sustainable products for a facility.  

Ashley — One common and unfortunate misconception is that the only “green” paper has to be a recycled material product. Certified sourcing certifications apply to both 100 percent virgin paper and paper with some level of recycled content. Also, fiber sourcing certification can be earned for a spectrum of quality levels in virgin tissue and towel products — from premium to value. This means end users can purchase the quality level needed and don’t have to necessarily purchase a recycled product that may have less absorption, for example. Recycled fiber typically contains shorter fibers, which lead to weaker paper. The longer fibers of virgin paper produce more absorbent and stronger paper towels. Again, certified sourcing certifications provide peace of mind to end customers regarding sound choices.
Another misconception is that recycled products are always more cost effective than virgin fiber paper, which is not necessarily the case, depending on market conditions and availability of recycled materials. In the North American paper industry, there is significantly more capacity to produce virgin fiber-based products versus recycled fiber-based products and pricing can fluctuate accordingly. 

What constitutes a “green” or “sustainable” paper product?  

Ashley — In the paper industry, fiber source certification is definitely a huge part of determining if a product is sustainable. But there are other important aspects as well, such as using controlled dispensing systems to discourage the waste of overuse. But packaging does play a part in sustainability. In our operations, we have “right-sized” our corrugated cases and only use the minimum amount necessary to protect the product. Another obvious consideration for distributors or end users is to do business with a manufacturer that has a deeply rooted investment in sustainability.  

Abaas — Green is part of sustainability. Green in paper products means that the packaging, manufacturing and materials that go into the product have a low carbon footprint. Sustainability encompasses the environmental, economic, and social aspects of products or processes. Green doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable, but sustainable due to its standards means green. Sustainable products are more inclusive of the social and regulatory aspects for all stakeholders, including manufacturers, customers, laborers, and third parties involved in producing paper products. 

Raccuia — As I mentioned earlier, sustainability has wide meaning and as a result there are a variety of different reasons a product could be considered "green." It could be as specific as the grade of paper used to create a product, or it could be the actual process in which the product is manufactured.  

How can distributors help their end-user customers identify/differentiate sustainable paper options from more traditional products?  

Abaas — Education and spreading awareness on the different certification systems and ecological labels, such as FSC and Ecologo, respectively, that truly verify the sustainability of a product. Also, some preliminary knowledge on sustainability is necessary to protect against greenwashing. For example, communicating and comparing products from their life cycle perspective can be a good way to differentiate based on scientific data and analysis.  

Ashley — In addition to offering certified products, distributors can encourage end users to convert to dispensing systems using small core tissue for higher capacity. Regarding towel dispensers, look for:
• Roll towel dispensers that dispense towels one-at-a-time versus folded towel dispensers.
• Automatic towel dispensers with options for “hanging” or “hidden” towel mode. Hidden mode means that the towel does not dispense until the electronic sensor is activated, which tends to limit overuse.
• Stub roll transfer feature, which ensures entire paper roll is used.
• Handsfree roll towel dispensers to dispensers that require interfacing with the dispenser. In addition to these being touchless, these dispense towels one-at-a-time to help control and reduce waste.
• Variable sheet size adjustability for towel roll dispensing. 

Raccuia — There are a number of different certifications for distributors and their end users to look for. FSC, Green Seal, and Eco Logo are a few of the most common. If a product is kraft or natural in color, you can also be confident that it is a 100 percent recycled item. 

What role does dispensing play in a sustainable paper program?  

Ashley — The type of dispenser is most key to sustainability in tissue and towel. In addition to certification of our products, we promote roll towel dispensers with controlled dispensing systems. These dispensers reduce waste by helping to lower consumption per hand dries to have a much more sustainable towel program. Roll towel dispensers that have sheet size variability or settings for “hanging mode” or “hidden mode” also discourage overconsumption. Look also for a roll towel dispenser with a stub roll feature so that 100 percent of the roll is used. On the tissue side, dispensers that control waste by using up initial roll before next roll becomes accessible are better at reducing waste and curbing unnecessary usage. So not only is less paper wasted, contributing to a significantly better cost in use which reflects the actual costs and not just cost per case. Minimizing waste also reduces frustrating outages. These benefits apply to high traffic or low traffic facilities. No one likes to waste paper, waste money – or frustrate restroom users by frequently being out of paper. It is really a sustainability no-brainer convert to a controlled consumption dispensing system.  

Raccuia — Dispensers will continue to play an enormous role in sustainability. The “Less is More” mentality is absolutely front of mind for the more sophisticated buyers. Therefore, dispensers that have built in cost savings tools will be in much higher demand in 2024. 

Abaas — The consideration of end-of-life is a crucial part of any product’s sustainability journey. In tissue paper, having the product serve its function and dissolve promptly with environmentally friendly biodegradation remains or outputs is crucial. Also, making sure that indissoluble tissues are put in a pure stream is necessary to create a closed-loop or circular economy model of dispensed tissues.  

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Paper Trends that Meet Industry Demand