When is recycled toilet paper not recycled? When it carries an FSC Recycled label

Hoarding of toilet paper started in early February 2020 in Hong Kong after consumers panicked themselves into believing that the coronavirus outbreak in China would disrupt supplies. Within days, toilet paper shelves were empty in the supermarkets. Social media helped fuel the hoarding, which quickly spread across the world from Sydney to London to Washington DC.

There was no actually shortage in terms of the pulp and paper industry’s ability to manufacture toilet paper. The industry ramped up production and watched its profits soar.

The shares price of Vinda International Holdings, a major Asian tissue products company, increased by 48% in the first months of 2020, as the South China Morning reported.

On 20 April 2020, the Forest Stewardship Council, ever sensitive to the wishes of the pulp and paper industry, put out a press release:

There is an increased demand for tissue and hygiene products on account of the COVID-19 pandemic situation. A significant amount of these products contains recycled paper using the FSC Mix and FSC Recycled labels. Companies are now beginning to see a shortage of recycled fibre to use in these products due to supply constraints and travel restrictions in many areas of the world arising out of the COVID-19 situation. FSC has issued a derogation (FSC-DER-2020-003) describing how companies can use virgin fibre for tissue and hygiene products carrying the FSC Recycled label.

The link from FSC’s press release to the derogation is no longer working, but the derogation is still available elsewhere on FSC’s website.

It states that,

Due to the logistical and practical difficulties that do not permit changing of packaging material at short notice, there are requests from organizations to allow substitution of recycled fibre with virgin fibre in products carrying the FSC Recycled label. This is expected to be a short-term measure till the COVID-19 situation improves and relevant supply chains and volumes can be re-established.

The Policy and Standards Unit at FSC will allow up to 50% virgin fibre to be used in products carrying the FSC Recycled label.

The derogation will remain in place until at least 30 June 2020. The FSC Recycled label is currently deceiving consumers, and is in effect completely meaningless.
 

One comment

  1. This derogation is valid until the end of June and it will be interesting to see if it is lifted then or extended. If the derogation of highly hazardous pesticides is anything to go by anything can, and will happen in the FSC.

    FSC maintain a list of highly hazardous chemicals. Included on this list, under the FSC Restricted List category is the pesticide Acetamiprid. The FSC has identified Acetamiprid as having “acute toxicity to mammals and birds”. FSC also maintain a list of approved derogations for the use of highly hazardous pesticides (FSC-PRO-30-001, 29.10.2019). No derogations have been granted for Acetamiprid use in any FSC certified forest anywhere in the world. Yet it is widely used in the UK and without doubt, many other countries with managed plantation forests. How do I know this? I’ve been planting sitka spruce and scots pine that have been pre-treated with Acetamiprid for the past two years. Some forest management companies apply two rounds annually of follow-up Acetamiprid treatment (via spraying) for two years after planting.

    It gets even worse. Acetamiprid’s predecessor was Cypermethrin. This insecticide was withdrawn from general forestry use in the UK after complaints from tree planters about the strong fumes released when sealed bags of treated trees were opened. Cypermethrin also appears on the FSC Restricted List and like Acetamiprid is classified as acutely toxic to mammals and birds. In spite of FSC identifying it as a highly hazardous chemical, it has approved derogations for Cypermethrin use in FSC certified forest in at least 11 countries. The largest number of derogations (11) have been in South Africa. All these derogations are valid for at least five years. In New Zealand the derogation is valid for 7 years.

    I have tried to ask FSC about the seeming contradictions in its hazardous chemicals policy but as anyone who has tried to get a response from them will know, they are highly secretive and non-transparent. A spokesperson for the FSC UK Pesticides Group did reply and explained that the FSC is no longer issuing derogations. The process aill be replaced by an Environmental and Social Risk Assessment from August this year.

    I’m not sure why nursery workers and tree planters should have any confidence in the FSC’s ability to protect them from hazardous chemicals. Anyone that is at all concerned about worker health and safety should be asking the FSC why they continue to allow these chemicals (and many others including glyphosate which is classified as a carcinogenic on the FSC register) to be used in certified forests.

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