14 February 2014
Canopy-approved study weighs alternative papers
VANCOUVER—A new alternative fibre lifecycle analysis released by the Kimberly-Clark Corporation has earned the support of non-profit environmental advocacy group Canopy.

Kimberly-Clark, the conglomerate behind a number of major brands including Kleenex and Huggies, worked with the Georgia Institute of Technology to assess the environmental impact of conventional fibre options (i.e. paper material sourced from Canadian boreal forests and recycled waste fibre) and alternative fibres such as bamboo, wheat straw, giant cane Arundo donax, and kenaf.

Wheat straw paper, one of five alternatives examined by the study, is made from leftover waste usually burned on fields after harvest

"The key to our endorsement of Kimberly-Clark's report is that this study includes measurements for biodiversity and carbon stored in our global forests as part of the environmental considerations," said Amanda Carr, campaign director with Canopy.

Other environmental indicators looked at were land occupation, human toxicity, climate change and water depletion.

Bamboo showed a significantly lower impact on the environment than typical northern bleached softwood craft fibre due to a rapid three-year renewal rate, whereas softwood trees take 70 years to regenerate.

In some areas, wheat straw, giant cane Arundo donax, and kenaf showed potential for a greater environmental impact compared to recycled fibre, including concern for water depletion with irrigated kenaf crops. But wheat straw also benefits from being a remnant of wheat grain production and can be comparable to recycled paper depending on the production of the original fibre, says the study.

The analysis concludes that alternative fibres show potential to become a larger part of Kimberly-Clark's sourcing strategy, but require ongoing study. According to the company, taking the alternatives to market might require mitigation strategies to counteract possible environmental impacts.

(Photo by Jim Clarke via Flickr. Creative Commons)
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