Toilet paper demand upsets wood supplies
SHANGHAI: China, the country credited with inventing toilet paper, is using the most - but the demand is putting pressure on precious wood supplies.
Those are the findings yesterday from a survey on paper consumption, and which calls for the return of handkerchiefs.
"China just managed to expand its forest coverage to 18 per cent from its former 16.2 per cent in 2003 after limiting lumbering for years. This is, however, still quite lower than the international standard of 30 per cent," said Wang Yueqin, vice-director of Shanghai Paper Trade Association.
He added: "While I am happy to see many young people adopt paper tissue for its convenience, which is a sign to reflect our social development and has helped improve our industry to some part, I am beginning to worry about the large wood consumption."
Wood pulp used to produce various kinds of paper has become the third largest product imported by China after petroleum and steel, he said.
"In 2003, China imported some 6.03 million tons of wood pulp and consumed some 8.2 million tons.
"And the 140,000 tons of tissues and toilet paper Shanghai uses every year consumes some 80,000 tons of wood pulp, equal to about 300,000 tons of wood," he added.
Wang said that the association has been advocating using paper more economically.
"We are also trying to encourage the application of new materials and technology to save wood," he said.
A factory in Jiangsu Province has invented technology to make toilet paper and tissue from straw, and another one in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region can produce tissue from the dregs of sugarcane, said Wang.
Sniffles, sneezes and tummy upsets in Shanghai see its citizens consume 8.5-kilogram of tissues and toilet paper every year. The international average is 3.5 kilograms.
The rise is blamed on the demise of handkerchiefs.
Song Junliang from the Shanghai Household Textile Industry Association, is spearheading a Handkerchief Commission to re-introduce the use of the small pocket cloth used mainly for nose-blowing.
"In Shanghai, only old people and some office ladies use handkerchiefs," said Song. "The demise began about a decade ago and now we ship most of our textile handkerchiefs abroad."
The association is hoping local people will again favour handkerchiefs to save wood for the country which is facing shortages of many resources.
(China Daily 02/15/2005 page1)