Cleaning products

See all tips to
GreenYour Cleaning products

Choose eco-friendly paper towels

This feature is only available to GreenYour members. Please sign-up.

Wiping up messy spills with disposable paper towels seems pretty innocnet, but most common brands (eg. Bounty) are made from trees harvested unsustainably old growth forests, and whitened with chlorine bleach.

What to look for when choosing eco-friendly paper towel

Pay particular attention to these two attributes:

  1. Post-consumer recycled content: Regardless of the brand of green paper towel you choose, make sure you verify what percentage of post-consumer fiber the product contains. PCW or Post-consumer waste (the reborn paper products made from your recycling bin contributions) is preferred to pre-consumer (often originating from manufacturing waste) because it means support for community recycling programs. Don’t be fooled by labels touting the word "recycled" without a PCW percentage since the product is likely made with only a fraction of post-consumer waste—typically as little as 10 percent.[1] The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) provides a very useful Paper Towel Guide, neatly charting data on different brands of paper towel, covering three important points: the bleaching process, the percent recycled, and the percent of paper towel made from post-consumer waste. You’ll want to pay special attention to their recommendations for which brands to avoid altogether.
  2. Chlorine usage: Check to see how the paper towel has been whitened, being careful to avoid products whitened with chlorine bleach. Look for processed chlorine-free (PCF) which means no toxic chemicals ending up in our water supplies. Though “elemental chlorine free (ECF)” might seem a good alternative, it’s not, so dodge brands sporting that claim. Or avoid the hassle of checking for chlorine altogether by choosing “natural” colored paper products instead, since that’s likely to indicate the fibers haven’t been whitened at all.

Find it! Eco-friendly paper towel

Many of these are available at natural food stores, online and increasingly mainstream grocery stores.

Choosing recycled paper towel helps you go green because…

  • If every US household replaced just one 70-sheet roll of virgin fiber paper towel with a 100 percent recycled one, about 544,000 trees would be spared.[2]

The United States is the largest tissue market in the world, with the average American consuming close to 55 pounds every year (including toilet and facial tissue, paper toweling, and napkins). They are followed closely by Canadians who use just under 50 pounds, but trailed a long way by Europeans who use 35 pounds annually.[3] The paper industry consumes 35 percent of all harvested trees every year, accounting for the felling of nearly 4 billion individual trees yearly.[4]

Most conventional paper products companies, such as Bounty and Kimberly-Clark (makers of Scott and Viva brand products) unsustainably harvest old growth forests to manufacture disposable paper products. The production of virgin fiber tissue products is contributing to the destruction of vast tracts of forest lands (most of which are in Canada) that have existed for thousands of years. Yet, worldwide forest ecosystems are critical to maintaining life on Earth. They filter the air, stabilize climate by absorbing CO2, and provide habitat for 90 percent of all land-dwelling plants and animals.[5] Making recycled paper products, on the other hand, requires less energy and water, and of course reduces the strain on our world’s forests.

Another major problem with paper towel is the way the pulp is processed. Chlorine dioxide is often used as a bleaching agent in paper towel manufacturing. This process creates hundreds of chemicals that are released into the environment, including dioxin, a known carcinogen.


  • dioxin: Dioxins are extremely persistent chemical compounds that are created inadvertently by human activities like incineration and fuel combustion. Dioxins break down slowly so they persist in the environment for many years. Exposure to dioxins may cause adverse health effects, such as cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, and skin disease.
  • elemental chlorine-free (ECF): This designation indicates that virgin fibers were treated without elemental chlorine, but that a chlorine derivative such as chlorine dioxide was used instead. Although preferable to chlorine-bleached paper products, this is nowhere near as eco-friendly as PCF paper products.
  • old growth forest: Also known as virgin forest, ancient forest, or primary forest, this is an area of forest which has attained great age, containing a variety of vertical layers of vegetation, including large live trees. These forests may also be home to many rare species that are dependent on these ecologically unique old growth features.
  • post-consumer waste (PCW): Refers to recycled content that results from curb-side collection. For example, your recycled Sunday paper is considered PCW. Post-consumer waste is the most desirable content in a recycled product, since it creates a market for paper that has already been used and would otherwise end up in a landfill.
  • pre-consumer waste: A type of waste recovered from the manufacturing process that has not met its intended use because of defect or as an acceptable leftover. Examples include paper trimmings from paper production, mill converting scraps, defective aluminum cans, and pulp substitutes.
  • recycled paper: Refers to paper scraps and trimmings that result from paper companies' manufacturing process. This is easiest to recycle because the scraps don't require any collection, sorting, or de-inking. However, it doesn't promote any consumer-based initiative related to recycling.

External links



you can compost paper towels along with your carrot peelings! no need to throw them into the landfill.


excellent suggestions


They are not manufacturing paper towels using virgin old growth forests. Quit spreading this lie.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.