Alexandra Stuthridge lives in Vancouver, Canada, and is the technical business manager of the BioProducts Institute (BPI), a globally-leading research cluster at the University of British Columbia (UBC). BPI is focused on advanced bio-based materials, chemicals and energy.
I have vivid and fond memories of the tissue paper manufactured in New Zealand, especially when I was a young girl. My grandfather worked in the Caxton Paper Mill in Kawerau and back then, before more stringent modern-day safety standards, we would often visit him at work. He would take us through the mill and show us all the equipment operating and each of the different products they produced. We always were given samples that we could take home. It was a staple in Kawerau households for the kids to have paper on a roll to use for drawing and projects etc. I remember I was particularly amazed at how strong tissue was for such a very soft product.
“Perhaps it is the growing distance from childhood, but I have found in recent times that the quality of tissue products seems to have changed. It is still soft but not as durable as I expect. For example, I wear contact lenses and find I can no longer use standard tissues for watery eyes because the tissues release small fibres that can be an irritant with the lenses. I have since learnt that this change in quality may be because there has been a switch from long to short fibres in the tissue manufacturing process, possibly because of increases in use of recycled fibres in these products.
“Notwithstanding this, I am still very attached to these products as an avid user of tissues, paper towels, napkins and, of course, toilet paper. While I am not really committed to particular brands, having products that are thick, strong and soft are imperative and, in my mind, not negotiable! Nevertheless, my preference is for environmentally-friendly tissue products generated by a sustainable, bio-based materials industry. I believe we as consumers can all help in many small ways to save our planet (which really does need saving), and I am more than prepared to pay more for “greener” products – like I do with my food.
“We are very lucky that Canada offers the variety of tissues which allows us the luxury of a choice of products that fulfil both my demanding needs for both quality and sustainability. This is clearly a critical requirement since, while other paper products may make way for on-line digital media, tissues and tissue products will never be replaced by my iPad!”