Paper products are getting more sustainable thanks to new European rules finalised last week.

Tissue paper, kitchen roll, toilet and printing paper products must now be free of a wide range of harmful chemicals if they want to bear the EU ecolabel. They also need to be made of wood fibres accredited as sustainable, contain no fragrances, which can cause allergies, and use cleaner production processes.

The rules apply from 11 January for producers applying to use the label on new products. Firms with ecolabel products already on the market must meet the rules by the end of 2019 and stop sending old stock to the market by mid 2020.

Industry fought the new rules, according Blanca Morales, an Ecolabel expert for the consumer association BEUC and environmental group European Environmental Bureau.

“Firms wanted to continue using fibres that fail to meet Forest Stewardship Council standards and we had to fight hard until the day of the vote.They were supported by government representatives for Sweden & Portugal, arguing that not enough certified fibres exist to meet demand. But the FSC says that there is enough and the problem is a lack of demand from manufacturers.”

She said progressive voting by Danish, German, Belgian, French and Italian representatives carried the day.

The new rules also forbid a broad range of chemicals classified as harmful. Lotions used to soften paper must no longer contain parabens, triclosan, formaldehyde, formaldehyde releasers or methylisothiazolinone, for example.

A ban is now in place for dyes and pigments based on aluminium, silver, arsenic, barium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, mercury, manganese, nickel, lead, selenium, antimony, tin or zinc.

Production processes must reduce harmful emissions into the air and water.

Image credit: thanks JJ Ying and Unsplash

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