Is Tissue Paper Recyclable and Biodegradable? (Explained)

Tissue paper is an essential product used worldwide. It is so widely used that 30,000 trees are cut down yearly to support the supply. It is a vital product to think about if you are working towards making your purchases more environmentally friendly.

What is tissue paper made of?

Tissue paper is almost entirely made from tree pulp. It is constructed similarly to regular paper, with a few differences in creating a softer product.

Trees are cut down and soaked to form tissue paper pulp. This pulp is sometimes mixed with chemicals to strengthen and bleach it to the desired color. It is then heated and pressed to create the tissue material, which is when rollers might be used to add decorative patterns.

Is tissue paper biodegradable?

Biodegradation can be described as microbes or organisms breaking down the structure of materials. The process and speed of biodegradation depend on temperature, moisture levels, and air availability.

Paper is made from trees, which will break down naturally. This means that nearly all types of tissue paper are biodegradable. This usually happens over a few weeks but can take months or years if disposed of incorrectly.

Although all tissue paper is technically biodegradable, some products are better for the environment than others. Why is this the case?

Certain companies label their product as biodegradable because of the raw material they use. Materials like bamboo, sugar cane, and hemp will break down quicker and more effectively than some of the hardwood trees used in most tissue paper.

These biodegradable products are better for the environment and your home. If you use a product labeled as biodegradable, it will break down quickly and is less likely to block your toilet or pipes. This might be particularly useful if you have a septic tank.

Does that mean you can compost tissue paper?

Tissue paper is a natural material, which means, in theory, that it can be composted.

However, this is only the case for some tissue, as it depends on its use and whether chemicals have been added to it. Toilet tissue cannot be composted for sanitary reasons, and some tissues have been strengthened with plastic.

If it is a natural paper tissue that does not contain additives that might disrupt the process, it can be composted.

If tissue paper is biodegradable, does that mean it is recyclable?

The answer to this question relates to the natural materials from which the tissue paper is made.

Many paper products are recyclable. Brown paper, magazines, envelopes, and printer paper can be recycled to create new paper materials. If the paper has any coating, contains wax or plastic, or has been contaminated with food, it usually can’t be recycled.

Toilet tissue is not recyclable in the same way as newspaper tissue. It must be separated and managed by a processing facility. This means the recyclable nature of tissue paper is not up to the consumer; it is the sewage companies and governments.

Many brands still use virgin paper pulp, which is where the wood pulp is sourced from freshly cut trees. Tissue paper is now regularly made from recycled paper. This change to tissue paper production has provided more options for eco-conscious consumers. Many brands now use recycled paper waste to create their tissue paper.

Does this mean tissue paper is environmentally friendly?

The tissue paper will break down naturally and can be made from recycled paper, making it eco-friendly. It is essential to consider how much we use tissue paper when considering if it positively impacts the environment.

Americans use around 25 rolls of tissue paper per person each year, which is approximately 20% of worldwide usage, yet the population makes up 4% of the world.

If you want to make sure the tissue paper you use is environmentally friendly, then there are two key things you should consider. First, what is the product made from, and whether has it been sustainably sourced?

When buying tissue paper, an important question is what material was used to make it. Traditional brands use hard or soft wood, which involves cutting down trees. This is not as good for the environment as it releases the stored carbon in the trees, damages the natural habitat, and requires much water.

Some eco-friendly brands are labeled as biodegradable and use plants like bamboo and hemp. These plants multiply and proliferate, are much less intensive to farm, produce fewer emissions, and harm the local environment less.

Biodegradable tissue paper is also better for the environment as it breaks down four times faster than traditional tissue paper. This is another reason why it is a positive choice for the environment.

Recycled tissue paper is also significantly more environmentally friendly than virgin paper pulp products. This is because these companies convert paper waste into another usable product, which means fewer trees are cut down.

However, choosing recycled paper is not the perfect solution, as recycling uses a significant amount of energy. This means that there are emissions to consider when buying recycled tissue paper.

Although the material used is essential when considering the environment, we should also consider whether this material was sourced sustainably. Many companies are sharing their sustainability credentials.

A few certifications to look for are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Rainforest Alliance, and Green Seal. These assess whether the materials are being grown ethically, sustainably, and economically.

Which tissue paper is the most sustainable?

There are many brands out there that provide environmentally friendly tissue paper. A few suggested brands are:

Seventh Generation: This brand is available in stores and online. It is made from recycled paper and uses no dyes, inks, or fragrances. It is also Rainforest Alliance and FSC certified, so you know the product comes from a sustainable source.

Betterway: This is a tissue paper subscription service that can also be found in stores. It is hypoallergenic, biodegradable, and made from bamboo that has been FSC-certified from organic farms. Plastic-free packaging is entirely recyclable.

Caboo Bamboo: An affordable bamboo product that is biodegradable, BPA-free, and sustainably grown.

Marcal: This tissue paper is made from 100% recycled paper, is free from chemicals, and is cost-effective.

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