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How to Create a Sustainable Paper Towel Program for Your Business

How to Create a Sustainable Paper Towel Program for Your Business

Paper towels are an important part of hand and surface hygiene, which is why you’ll find a roll in most bathrooms, cafeterias, and cleaning carts nationwide. 

In fact, paper towels are such a popular item that the US generates over 3000 tons of paper towel waste every day

To help combat the massive volume of paper towel waste, many businesses have begun creating sustainable paper towel programs. Sustainable paper towel programs aim to reduce paper towel waste and the environmental impact of paper towel usage. 

It may sound elaborate at first, but it’s actually pretty easy to create a sustainable paper towel program. 

In this article and video, we detail four things you can do to help jumpstart a sustainable paper towel program started in your facility! 

Here are four ways to create a sustainable paper towel program:

  1. Use Sustainably Sourced Paper
  2. Buy Paper Towels with a High Recycled Content Percentage
  3. Invest in a Smart Paper Towel Dispenser
  4. Replace Paper Towels with Microfiber Cloths

The first step towards creating a sustainable paper towel program is to make sure that your paper towels are coming from a sustainable paper source. 

Fortunately, there are a number of third-party groups that you can use to make sure you’re selecting sustainably sourced paper. Some of the most common third-party organizations that certify whether a source is sustainable are:

  • Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
  • Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)

Part of what organizations like SFI, FSC, and PEFC do is promote sustainable forest management, work with indigenous communities to ensure respect is given to local and religious customs, establish certified fiber sourcing standards, and track the processing and manufacturing of natural resources from cultivation to creation of the end product. 

The benefit of using certified sustainable paper sources is knowing that the resources used in the production of your paper goods were responsibly managed and that production had a minimal contribution to deforestation

How can the production of paper have a minimal effect on deforestation? One example is by sourcing wood from areas where forest management is required to improve the habitat or ecosystem. In scenarios like this one, removing wood, while still contributing to deforestation, is actually beneficial for the surrounding area. 

Another priority should be to select paper towels with the highest percentage of recycled content

Pro Tip: Recycled content percentage is the total percent of recycled material in a product. The total recycled content percentage is made up of both pre-consumer recycled content percentage and post-consumer recycled content percentage. Pre-consumer content comes from recycled materials that never made it to the end user, whereas post-consumer content comes from materials that an end user recycled. 

Essentially, the recycled content percentage tells you how much of a paper towel roll is made from recycled materials. By using paper towels with a high recycled content percentage, you’re effectively diverting materials that were otherwise bound for a landfill. 

Most paper products have recycled content in them, but the goal isn’t just to use paper towels with recycled content, it’s to maximize the recycled content percentage in your paper towels. 

The idea is to go from good, to better, to best. 

Let’s say that your business uses paper towels with no recycled content. It would be good to start using paper towels that contain some level of recycled content. It would be better to use paper towels that exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s post-consumer waste minimum of 40%.

You’ll be able to tell whether a roll of paper towels is made from recycled content because the recycled content percentage is often advertised on the front of the packaging, or it will be visible on a label. 

How old are the paper towel dispensers in your facility? Investing in a new, smart paper towel dispensers can reduce excess paper usage by up to 30% without impacting customer satisfaction.

How does it reduce excess paper usage, you may ask? Through controlled dispensing. 

Pro Tip: Controlled dispensing is the ability to adjust the size and amount of paper that a paper towel dispenser releases each use. 

This design feature helps to limit how much paper towel the customer can use, helping to reduce paper waste. 

Paper waste is further reduced by measures meant to combat change out wastage. For example, staff may throw out a roll of paper towels if there are only a few sheets left, rather than wait for it to be completely used up in order to save time during a shift.

New innovative paper towel dispensers are designed to rotate in a new roll after the initial roll has been finished. This way, the employee doesn’t have to worry about the dispenser running out of paper towels, and so they won’t throw the nearly-finished rollout early. 

What this means is that, by minimizing or eliminating the need for staff to change out rolls of paper towels before they’re fully used, you can be sure that 100% of the roll is utilized.

Switching to microfiber cloths for cleaning procedures is a great way to cut down on costs while promoting sustainable practices. Instead of having to continuously buy single-use paper towels, you can just wash and reuse the same microfiber cloth

Pro Tip: Microfiber is a type of fabric made up of ultra-fine fibers. 

Paper towels frequently leave behind residue, and often do a poor job of eliminating dust. Microfiber cloths, on the other hand, are specifically designed for cleaning purposes. They grab dirt and germs and hold on to them, as opposed to just pushing or spreading the dirt around. 

There’s also a variety of different types of microfiber clothes that are specially designed for specific cleaning applications, from glass and wood to porcelain and ceramic. These are going to result in a much more efficient clean than any paper towel. 

Final Thoughts

A sustainable paper towel program is a great way to promote sustainable business practices and cut down on your environmental impact while decreasing product wastage, increasing staff productivity, and boosting savings. 

So, what’s stopping you from creating a sustainable paper towel program at your facility? 

By using sustainably sourced paper, buying paper towels with a high recycled content percentage, investing in smart paper towel dispensers, and replacing paper towels with microfiber cloths for cleaning, you’ll already be well on your way!

Don’t forget, when in doubt, it’s always a good idea to check with the product manufacturer or your Imperial Dade sales representative regarding product sustainability or sustainable practices. 

If you need help getting your sustainable paper towel program off the ground or are interested in learning more about any of the topics covered in this article, consider reaching out to an Imperial Dade facility near you. 

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