Kimberly-Clark, the manufacturer of super-soft paper products that originate from virgin timber in old-growth forests — Kleenex, Cottonelle toilet paper, and Viva paper towels (the Rolls-Royces in each respective category) — has at long last come out with a recycled content brand, the Scott Naturals line. Welcome to the party, K-C.
As Ariel Schwartz at Fast Company points out, Kimberley-Clark’s reputation among environmentalists is rather sullied (check out websites like Kleercut.net) making this foray into recycled content territory more or less an offering of an olive branch to detractors. Or as Schwartz eloquently puts it, the Scott Naturals line is K-C “wiping away its eco guilt.”
Kudos to K-C for stepping up to the plate, but is it too little too late?
In the too little arena, Scott Naturals — toilet paper, paper towels, flushable wipes, and napkins — didn’t fare well in Greepeace’s Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide, a reference that has quickly become the green standard for rating household paper goods based on recycled content. TreeHugger, on the other hand, points out that compared to the products of direct competitors like Charmin, Scott Naturals products boast high levels of recycled fiber content: 40 percent for the TP, 60 percent for the paper towels, and 80 percent for the napkins. The outer packaging is also made from 20 percent post-consumer recycled plastic and the cardboard cores are made from 100 percent recycled fibers.
In comparison, non-mainstream brands like 365 and Seventh Generation have 80 percent recycled content in their toilet papers.
So is it too late? I don’t think it’s ever too late for a major paper goods manufacturer to give consumers a greener alternative even if it’s not the greenest. This, of course, doesn’t give K-C a get out of jail free card. But hey, out on bail and making significant improvements is fine by me.