Sunday Star Times via Stuff.co.nz by Esther Harward, 02/05/2010
Kiwi toilet paper brands are flushing Indonesia's endangered species down the toilet by supporting that country's paper industry, say environmentalists, who are concerned at mass clearance of its forests without a credible guarantee that trees are harvested responsibly.
Over half of the paper pulp New Zealand uses to produce toilet roll and tissue paper is sourced from Indonesia. Activists here accuse some toilet roll brands of "greenwashing" packaging to dupe conscientious shoppers. Kiwis spent $153 million on toilet paper in the year to the end of March.
Indonesia last year became New Zealand's biggest supplier of paper pulp used to make toilet paper, overtaking Australia. Green Party forestry spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said the trend was "very concerning… Indonesia as a whole has a very poor record of proper certification of their paper products".
Greenpeace campaigner Grant Rosoman said many Kiwis "would be shocked to know that they might be wiping their bums with tissue paper that is killing orangutans and tigers".
Environmentalists say that, over the last 25 years, global demand for pulp and paper, as well as palm oil, is to blame for the loss of more than 65% of original forest in Indonesia's Riau Province, the country's top paper producer.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates during that period the Sumatran elephant population in Riau declined 84% to 210 animals, while the Sumatran tiger population declined 70% to 192 animals between 1982 and 2007.
Of five major toilet paper manufacturers asked by the Sunday-Star Times where they sourced raw paper from, one admitted it used Indonesian pulp, but insisted it was from a legitimate source; three said they didn't use Indonesian pulp, and one refused to respond.
Cottonsoft, which makes Cottonsoft and Kiwicare toilet paper brands and sells 21% of NZ's toilet paper, said it sourced some pulp from Indonesia. Chief executive Peter Byers said all of it was certified by either the Indonesian Ecolabel Institute (LEI), the Switzerland-based Timber Legality and Traceability Verification (TLTV) scheme, or "third-party independent auditors" operating under the guidance of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
"The specifications for our tissue products specify high standards of traceability which ensure that no illegally produced product can enter our supply chain," Byers said.
But Greenpeace and WWF are critical of the LEI and TLTV schemes. Rosoman said both endorsed forest clearances for plantations, which were "highly controversial practices".
He said the quality of the PEFC scheme – the world's largest forest certification organisation – was "variable" depending on countries' own standards.
Rosoman said "made in New Zealand" labels on Cottonsoft and Kiwisoft brands were "deliberately confusing" when the company imported pulp that was already processed. Cottonsoft's label says "Made in NZ from imported tissue", while Kiwisoft says "Proudly made in NZ".
Progressive Enterprises (Woolworths Home Brand, Signature Range and Select brands), which has 24% of the market, did not respond to repeated requests from the Star-Times to say where it sourced its raw paper. In 2008, Progressive was embarrassed into recalling Select toilet paper – whose packaging read "from sustainable forest fibre" – when it was revealed paper pulp was likely to have come from Sumatran rainforests, which are not sustainably managed.
Kimberly-Clark (which makes Cottonelle and Kleenex brands) and SCA Hygiene (Sorbent, Purex and Economy) said they did not use Indonesian suppliers, and provided certification numbers allowing plantations to be traced.
A spokesperson for ABC Tissue (which makes Quilton and Earthcare) said the company did not use Indonesia suppliers, but did not give certification numbers, saying suppliers' identities were confidential.
The Greens are working with Australia's Green Party on a combined bill that would ban imports into both countries of goods that have come from an illegal or unsustainable source. They plan to take it to parliament in July.
Department of Statistics' figures show volumes of raw paper imported from Indonesia to make toilet roll and other tissue-related products have risen sharply over the past few years, from 2.2 million kilograms in 2007 to 8 million kilograms in 2009 – 52% of the total. The previous year, Australia was New Zealand's biggest supplier – 6.9 million kilograms, compared to Indonesia's 3.7 million.
WHICH TOILET PAPER BRANDS ARE GREENEST?
Greenpeace forests campaigner Grant Rosoman says:
Earthcare: "as it is recycled".
Sorbent, Purex and other SCA products "mostly from NZ-grown plantations with some from Canada, which is OK".
Cottonelle and Kleenex: "because Kimberly-Clark have committed to not buy from Indonesia, and have Canadian and Brazilian plantation sources".