Tree-free bamboo loo paper

Chevonne Logan-Taylor, co-founder of Cheeky Monkey, with the new tree-free eco-friendly toilet paper.
Chevonne Logan-Taylor, co-founder of Cheeky Monkey, with the new tree-free eco-friendly toilet paper.

HOMEWARE COMPANY Cheeky Monkey is claiming to do what others have failed at so far, produce truly tree-free, eco-friendly toilet paper.

Cheeky Monkey, owned by product sourcing and development company Asia Pacific Brands, has launched a range of toilet paper, paper towels and tissues made from sugarcane and bamboo bagasse, a by-product of the plants.

"Environmentally-friendly", "green" and "sustainable" have been marketing buzzwords for a while but there are often negative environmental effects when it comes to paper production, despite good intentions.

The Commerce Commission said environmental claims could be strong marketing tools and were used by businesses in an attempt to differentiate their products or services from competitors.

"Companies realise consumers today have an increased awareness of the environmental impact that modern goods have."

However, businesses making environmental claims needed to ensure their claims were scientifically sound and appropriately substantiated under the Fair Trading Act, the commission said.

Paper and packaging giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), which owns CottonSoft and KiwiSoft toilet tissue and Tuffy hand towels and the Paseo toilet tissue brand in New Zealand, came under fire in 2011 when environmental advocacy group Greenpeace found some CottonSoft products contained rainforest fibre. Soon after, supermarket chain Countdown cut its contract with CottonSoft to make its Home Brand loo paper.

Last year APP said it would stop clearing natural forest across its entire supply chain after the accusations of deforestation.

Cheeky Monkey co-founder Chevonne Logan-Taylor said the company hoped to help reduce deforestation through its tree-less products.

Bamboo and sugarcane were classified as grasses rather than hardwood trees and quickly regenerated following harvest. Cheeky Monkey products were made from Thai sugarcane and Chinese bamboo, Logan-Taylor said.

According to the company's website about 90 per cent of the world's paper came from trees and humans consumed about 27,000 trees daily for toilet paper.

Countdown asked the company about 18 months ago to create environmentally-friendly toilet paper, Logan-Taylor said.

She said tree-less paper was fairly new to the market and as far as she knew Cheeky Monkey was the first with it in New Zealand.

Recycled paper and toilet tissue were widely available but were often scratchy, more expensive and used chemicals like chlorine in the bleaching process, Logan-Taylor said, adding that Cheeky Monkey did not use chlorine so water could be reused.

She said Australian market research showed 52 per cent of consumers cared about a brand's environmental impact but only 29 per cent were willing to pay more for a product that was environmentally friendly.

An eight-pack of Cheeky Monkey toilet paper retailed at about $5.99, in line with prices of other brands.

"As a business, we rely on margins and profitability and what we are demonstrating with Cheeky Monkey is that it is a viable option to source alternative raw materials, remain financially sound and help preserve the planet without stripping its natural resources."

Logan-Taylor said Cheeky Monkey was trying to educate the consumer to realise "making small differences had an impact on the environment as a whole".

Cheeky Monkey paper was also biodegradable so was safe to use if consumers had a septic tank or on a boat, she said.

Greenpeace global forest solutions co-ordinator Grant Rosoman said the organisation supported the use of responsibly-sourced alternative tree-free fibres for paper. However, there were environmental and social concerns around sugar cane production.

According to the World Wildlife Fund sugarcane was a water-intensive crop, impacting on environmentally-sensitive regions such as the Mekong Delta and the Atlantic Forest.

General manager of independent eco-labelling organisation Environmental Choice Robin Taylor said the organisation was in the process of revising its labelling standards to cover paper made with hemp, stone, mushrooms, straw, bamboo and bagasse.

Bamboo was becoming more popular as a fibre, and the eco-label was paying attention to the habitat it forms for a number of endangered species such as the giant panda, mountain gorilla, many species of Amazon birdlife and the bamboo lemur.

Sunday Star Times