Kimberly-Clark’s recycling practices

by Mike Gaworecki

July 29, 2008

Cut & Run reportI recently wrote a post about an action we carried out that targeted a Kimberly-Clark (KC) Kleenex manufacturing facility. A few people wrote in the comments that they would like to know more about the company’s practices and why we’re targeting them. Tons of relevant information can be found in our report, Cut & Run, which we had on-hand at the action to pass out to KC employees and anyone else who wanted to know why we were there. The report documents KC’s complicity in the destruction of the Kenogami Forest, a Boreal forest in northern Ontario, Canada that was once directly managed by KC and still serves as a primary source of tree pulp for the company today.

Clearcuts currently stretch across nearly 27,000 acres of the Kenogami Forest thanks to KC’s logging practices. Worse, the company’s plans for the next few years include the logging of forests that are as much as two centuries old – to make products that are generally used once and then thrown away.

The commenters were specifically wondering about the company’s recycling practices. I pulled some salient info out of the report:

Amount of virgin tree pulp used annually: 3.1 million metric tonnes (3.4 million tons)

Percent of total fibre used in Kimberly-Clark products sold in North America that comes from recycled sources: 18

Percent of total fibre used in Kimberly-Clark consumer brands sold in North America that comes from recycled sources: Less than 1

You read right: less than 1% of all the Kleenex, Scott, and Cottonelle people buy from the store every day is made from recycled content. That’s inconscionable, especially considering that the company isn’t sourcing its virgin fiber responsibly, to boot. Obviously, if the company had a high standard for using recycled content in its products, they wouldn’t have to cut down so much old-growth Boreal forest. But even when it’s necessary for them to use virgin pulp, they could be sourcing it much more susatinably. As the report states:

If the company increased its use of recycled fibre across its entire range of products, it could dramatically reduce its reliance on virgin tree pulp. And if it adopted a more rigorous and credible policy, one that prohibited the use of fibre from Endangered Forests (including intact forests and threatened species habitat) and made a meaningful commitment to wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, Kimberly-Clark could ensure that virgin fibre it did use in its products came from well-managed forests.

Inexplicably, the company has resisted implementing these simple and seemingly commonsense standards. Plus, I haven’t even mentioned the social justice issues this raises: the First Nations peoples who have lived in and off of the Kenogami Forest for generation after generation who weren’t consulted whatsoever about KC’s plans to destroy their homeland, for instance. Needless to say, KC can do better, and we aren’t letting them off the hook until they do.

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