Photo: What is the eco-friendliest toilet paper?

Choose paper products that leave the most trees in the forest.(Credit: Snacktime2007 via Flickr)

Not all recycled paper products—from toilet paper to office paper—are created equal. To make sense of paper labels, you should choose paper products that leave the most trees in the forest.

When a claim reads "100 per cent recycled", the recycled content can come from one of two sources. The best choice is toilet and other paper products made from 100 per cent post-consumer waste (PCW) because it is made from resources that have already been extracted, reused and kept out of the waste stream. PCW refers to paper made from the flyers or envelopes that you've recycled. The PCW content in paper products will vary from 10 to 100 per cent; choose the highest!

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The less desirable choice is made from pre-consumer waste, or the scraps left over after paper processing (trim from newspapers, printing overruns etc). It's still a better choice than paper made from virgin pulp.

Another factor to consider is the bleaching process. The "greenest" option is labeled Processed Chlorine Free (PCF). This is a green label found on paper products with a minimum of 30 per cent recycled paper content. It's certified by the Chlorine Free Products Association, and the pulp comes from mills that do not use old growth forest or other virgin pulp. These paper products have not been rebleached with chlorine-containing compounds. You might also notice the Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) label — while this may seem preferable to PCF if isn't because it refers to paper products made from virgin pulp.

The next time you shop for paper products, look for 100 per cent PCW recycled content and the PCF label. It's the greenest choice.

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