Not long ago, it was considerably easier to decipher a quality paper product from its bargain counterpart.
Today, with advancements in the manufacturing process and in material selection — not to mention clever packaging and advertising campaigns — the once clearly drawn lines are blurred and are becoming increasingly harder to distinguish.
We spoke with several industry experts to get an appraisal of what characteristics are meaningful when selecting paper products for your facilities.
A Sustainable Means To An End
Sustainability is a buzzword on every contemporary facility manager''s mind and to keep up with consumer demands for environmentally friendly paper products, a majority of manufacturers offer goods with post-consumer recycled content.
"Companies that have sustainable tissue and paper product offerings can actually help office buildings, schools and other commercial properties obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB) credits by using recycled paper products so they can meet their environmental goals," states Jennifer Perillo, marketing manager for Atlas Paper Mills.
"They also help build awareness on protecting the environment and what we as individuals can do to help sustain it," Perillo adds.
It is one thing for a company to claim their products are sustainable, but an independent, third-party certification is necessary to guarantee manufacturer assertions.
"There are different levels of certification offered by many companies like Green Seal and EcoLogo," notes Mark Ray, director of marketing for Kruger Products.
"Certification avoids a company''s chance to greenwash — it weeds that out and facilitates trust between consumer and manufacturer," Ray concludes.
Good, Better And Best Options
According to Mike Kapalko, environmental services manager for SCA Tissue''s Tork brand, "Good options have high recycled content and are processed chlorine-free. Better options will not only be 100 percent recycled, but will limit consumption and eliminate waste at the source. The best option is working with companies with a proven focus and track record, [such as] a company that focuses its entire operation on sustainability, rather than just a select ''green'' line of products."
With high-quality paper, less product is needed to achieve desired goals.
In terms of paper towels, a higher quality offering comes in a larger sheet size and is more absorbent, meaning an investment in a quality product will yield better results over a longer period than a bargain offering will; the contrapositive is true of inferior quality towels.
As Ray asserts, cost in use, or the actual cost of using a product in a real-world situation, is what is truly important.
"There has often been a ''stigma'' with recycled products as being brown, stiff and low-quality; however, because of major advancements in manufacturing technology, recycled paper products have become a more desirable option for consumers as well as distributors in the JanSan market," proclaims Perillo.
Today''s paper product offerings are, as Ray puts it, "green quality" and offer performance comparable to that of traditional, 100 percent virgin fiber products.
Smear campaigns by certain organizations have tried to paint a misleading picture of manufacturers and the paper products they produce.
Through research and education, adept facility managers can see through whatever form of greenwash may be taking root around them.
One cannot judge a product by its packaging and purchasing from an assumption can be a detriment.
Play the role of intelligent facility manager and select paper products that not only have minimal adverse effects on the environment, but also help ensure the cleanliness and health of facilities and building occupants.