Paper towels, one of the best technologies ever invented in the world not only provide convenience to your busy life, but also ensure proper sanitation at home. Use it once, and then throw it out. Probably you as well, take advantage of this wonderful invention and use it for drying hands or for cleaning…while killing trillions of trees and exposing yourself to toxins.
As innocent as they look, here is what the towels are really hiding behind their soft, spotless appearance:
“Use wisely, paper equals trees”, a motto commonly seen in Harvard schools is promoted to remind students of the true origin of paper. The mountains of paper towels that you throw away are not made in grocery stores or shops, but are acquired from factories slaughtering trillions of trees, destroying the homes for countless wildlife species.
How many sheets or rolls of paper towels do you trash each day? How many have you gone through already during the past couple of years?
Did you know that the paper industry, being the third largest contributor to global warming, kills 17 trees and pollutes 20,000 gallons of water for every 1 ton of paper towels made? Top U.S. paper manufacturers even take down the most vibrant forests, just to make disposable papers that end up in a rubbish dump!
Worse, to compensate for the amount of paper towels that you and I throw away, 51,000 trees are cut down for more mass production, ruining 60 million gallons of water, not to mention the side effects of breathing the toxins added to make paper towels and the carcinogenic cleaners that you’d spray to clean with the towels. The sheets of dirty towels are then discarded and counted towards landfill built up.
Used paper towels are considered as garbage?
Recycling is not feasible. Paper towels often get mixed together with gunk, stains or dirt which is too difficult and time-consuming to separate it and also, there are hardly any fibers left for the paper towels to be reused! The bottom line is it’s simply not worth the trouble. Composting paper towels would be plausible and the only concern would be the released methane gas when the towels are decomposing. Methane gas is one of the main causes to global warming. So compost? Probably not.
Is there a way out of this misery?
If every household in the USA could slightly lower their dependence on the paper towels, and just use one less 70-sheet roll of virgin fiber paper towels, we could be saving more than 500,000 trees each year! Try replacing the paper towels with a strong towel that could last you several uses.
Once you have reduced the number of paper towels used, you are also spared from inhaling noxious chemicals. Chlorine in particular, is employed in a typical paper towel manufacturing process and its by-products are highly toxic potential carcinogens. On the other hand, chemical cleaners that can be spotted everywhere in a household, are largely unregulated; hazardous chemicals were found to be lurking around in stain removers, degreasers, and floor and oven cleaners.
In 2012, Environmental Working Group (EWG) published an interesting report named the “Hall of Shame” where listed cleaners that showed controversies to what was advertised. “Green” and “non-toxic” natural cleaners were shockingly found to contain lethal amounts of chemicals that would penetrate the skin and damage underlying tissues and bone. A “fume-free” cleaner included a label saying, “Vapor harmful…” and admitted that the product contains a substance “known to the state of California to cause cancer.” Some of the cleaners even contained chemicals that are suspected to harm unborn children!
To view the complete report by EWG, please click here.
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Dombrowski, Margie Monin. "Going Paper Towel-less." Recycle Nation. N.p., 40 Nov. 2009. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.
EWG Cleaners Database HALL OF SHAME (n.d.): n. pag. 2012. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.
Galbrath, Kate. "The Use and Abuse of Paper Towels." The New York Times. N.p., 29 Dec. 2008. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.
"How It's Made - Paper Towels." YouTube. YouTube, 30 June 2013. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.
"Pages - Cleaning Methods and Standards." Cleaning Methods and Standards. Sarasota County, n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.