Can eradicating those cardboard cylinders at the center of our toilet paper rolls eliminate a substantial amount of waste? It can according to Kimberly-Clark, who says the United States produces 17 billion toilet paper tubes a year, a staggering 160 million pounds of trash. That's why Kimberly-Clark announced in today's USA Today that it's now making tube-free toilet paper for its Scott Natural brand.
Just this small effort will reduce waste in the sense that it tackles a behavioral problem: Most people don't take the effort to recycle or compost that little cardboard cylinder at the center of the roll. But I'm hoping Kimberly-Clark will go ahead and incorporate this technology into all their rolls, not just the "natural" brand: The people who are looking to purchase brands labeled "natural" are already more likely to recycle or compost.
The technology is actually not that revolutionary, according to a spokesperson—they're already using tubeless rolls for their corporate clients. However, what struck me in the USA Today article was that Kimberly-Clark isn't willing to discuss how they do it, saying only that it's a "special winding process." The right thing to do as a responsible company would be to share the technology with other companies in the hopes that it could quickly roll out throughout the entire industry—but maybe the open-source approach doesn't fly in the TP biz.