Are Tissues Eco-Friendly? 11 Important Facts (You Should Know)

Are Tissues Eco-Friendly? 11 Important Facts (You Should Know)

published on June 18th, 2022

As tissues are a single-use item, you might worry about them having a negative environmental impact.

Tissues are not terrible for the environment; they’re renewable and biodegradable, but they are some drawbacks.

Here’s everything you need to know about whether or not tissues are eco-friendly.

1. What Are Tissues Made Of?

Tissues come from paper.

They are made from paper pulp. Paper pulp is made when the cellulose fibers in wood or waste paper are separated

So, tissues can be made from recycled paper pulp from paper production or from new pulp intended for tissue production.

2. Are Tissues Bad for the Environment?

Tissues are not particularly good for the environment. 

Tissues are single-use items, which means they accumulate waste as the demand for new tissues does not wane. 

However, as the paper pulp comes from wood, tissues are a renewable resource.

Paper is usually made from softwood trees like pine, spruce, fir, and hemlock. It takes up to 40 years for these kinds of trees to be ready to harvest. 

So, while trees are renewable, it takes decades to replenish them. High demand for tissues can lead to deforestation as more trees are cut down to make the paper pulp. 

More brands are opting to use recycled paper pulp, preventing more trees from being cut down.

3. Are Tissues Recyclable?

While regular paper is recyclable, you should not try to recycle tissues. 

Tissue paper is not of a high enough quality to be recycled into a new product, regardless of whether it has been used. Facial tissues are too fragile to be turned into a new product. 

Recycled tissues are made from recycled paper; not recycled tissue paper. 

It should also be noted that placing a used tissue in a recycle bin is not hygienic due to the spread of bacteria.

4. Are Tissues Flushable? 

Most tissues are not flushable. Toilet paper and tissue paper cannot be used interchangeably in this regard.

Toilet paper is specifically designed to be septic safe. This means it can break down quickly into smaller pieces and easily pass through the septic system.

Items that are not septic safe could get stuck and cause damage to the system.

Most facial tissues are not septic safe, so they should not be flushed down the toilet. 

The only scenario where you should flush facial tissues down the toilet is if they are clearly marked as septic safe. 

5. Are Tissues Biodegradable?

Most tissue is biodegradable. Since tissue is made from paper pulp, which comes from wood, it can degrade quickly.

Tissues are small and slim, making them quick and easy to break down. 

6. Are Tissues Compostable?

Tissues are usually compostable. As mentioned earlier, paper and wood are natural resources which means they will degrade.

Not everything biodegradable is compostable. The biggest difference is if an item will break down into organic material or not. 

Bleached and fragranced tissues can leach inorganic substances. 

Natural tissues are compostable. Tissues that have been treated with bleach, fragrance, or dye are not technically compostable. 

You can not always put tissues in your home composting bin, even if they are unbleached.

Tissues used to wipe up water, or food stains can go in your compost bin, but not tissues used to blow your nose or wipe your face.

These used tissues can spread bacteria through your compost bin. Used tissues are accepted by many Drop-Off composting initiatives, which companies run for a fee.

However, not everyone will live in an area with drop-off composting or an industrial composting facility.

7. Are Tissues Sustainable?

Although tissues are single-use items, the good news is they biodegrade and are made from renewable materials.

However, tissues made from virgin paper pulp are still problematic.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide, but when they are cut down, this is released back into the environment.

As mentioned earlier, it takes decades for trees to mature, so saplings will not absorb as much CO2 as mature trees. 

So, tissues made from virgin paper pulp are not as sustainable as recycled tissues.

That said, items like paper cannot be recycled indefinitely. Recycled tissues cannot be recycled again regardless, so they will end up in landfills or in a compost bin.

The recycling process still requires energy use, as most electricity comes from non-renweable resources this is unsustainable.

However, recycling uses less energy and resources than creating new products from scratch so recycled tissues are a step in the right direction. 

Even if an item, like a tissue, is naturally biodegradable, they still pose issues when dumped in landfills.

These items can emit methane at landfills, which is a greenhouse gas.

8. Are Tissues Toxic?

Some tissues are toxic. Try to stick to unbleached, unfragranced tissues. 

Many kinds of tissue are whitened with chlorine. Chlorine is unstable and can react with substances in the environment.  

Chemicals emitted during the bleaching process can enter the environment and potentially be hazardous to human health. 

Fragranced tissues are not green either. These fragrances can emit environmental pollutants and cause respiratory issues, migraines, and more health issues in humans.

Some fragrances can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs have been linked with smog and can increase the levels of greenhouse gases in the environment. 

9. Are Tissues Vegan?

Not all tissues are vegan. Veganism is more than a diet; it’s about avoiding animal products and byproducts in every area of your life.

Some tissue paper contains glue to help bind it together; this glue is sometimes made from animal products

This is not the case with all tissues. A good rule of thumb is if a product is not clearly marked as vegan, it probably isn’t vegan. 

10. How to Dispose of Tissues Properly?

Used tissues can go in your general waste bin, or you can drop used tissues and other items off at a drop-off composting facility.

If you used the tissues to wipe food stains or water, they can still go in your home compost bin so long as they are not bleached, dyed, or fragranced. 

11. Are There Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Tissues?

Tissues are necessary for hygiene and preventing the spread of colds and flu, so there are few eco-friendly alternatives. However, there are some options. 

Reusable Handkerchief 

The main issue with tissues is that they can only be used once.

A handkerchief can last a lifetime if you take good care of it. Using a handkerchief means there is less demand there is for tissues, meaning fewer trees will be cut down. 

You can even upcycle old clothing made from soft material to make a handkerchief. 

Recycled Tissues 

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest environmental concerns regarding tissues is the high demand for trees.

Recycled tissues are greener because fewer trees are cut down.

Some recycled tissues are still bleached, dyed, or scented, so this will still be something to keep in mind.  

Bamboo Tissues 

Trees take decades to mature, but bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world.

So while trees and bamboo are renewable, bamboo is greener because it’s easier to replenish.

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