Some questions are complex and require some consideration – for example, ideas regarding the environmental effects of disposable vs. reusable products. Is a reusable product always the better option in terms of the environment?
Not necessarily. The matter, of course, isn’t simple and requires a closer look. Below, I will compare a reusable textile napkin to a disposable paper napkin. How do these products differ in terms of manufacturing and use?
Textile napkins are designed to be long-lasting products, but in professional use they present a number of challenges. In restaurants, napkins must look pristine and hygiene standards are high. Frayed edges, cuts or challenging stains have a surprisingly dramatic effect on the usability and service life of the product. All napkins won’t be clean enough for use even after thorough washing and some will have to be disposed of for other reasons. Laundry services also need to be considered when working with reusable napkins.
And when you take into account the global challenges linked to the production of the napkin’s material, e.g., cotton farming, the matter becomes even more complicated. The most important environmental effects that textiles have are related to the consumption of water and energy and the use of chemicals that are harmful to both our health and the environment. Chemicals are used at all stages of the production chain, from farming the raw materials all the way up to the finished product.
Cotton farming takes up 5% of the Earth’s farmland, but uses 11% of all the chemicals used in farming. The environmental damage resulting from cotton farming is mostly due to three factors: irrigation, fertilisation and pesticides. Cotton plants require a lot of nutrients and quickly impoverish the soil to the point where it becomes unsuitable for farming. There is also the question of whether the areas used to farm cotton should be used to grow food.
Cotton enjoys warm and humid climates. This means that from a Finnish point of view, cotton is far from a local product. There are also some challenges related to its origin. How do you find out where the cotton came from, when the standard practice is to combine cotton from several sources before turning it into fabric?
In addition to knowing where the cotton was grown, it’s also important to know where the fabric was made, who did it and what kind of working conditions they had. What chemicals were used in the process? The entire process also includes a lot of transporting. When you consider the cotton farming, fabric manufacturing, napkin sewing, possible transport and the short use life the product has, it is easy to see that there are many challenges.
What about the materials used in a disposable napkin? Are they environmentally friendly? At Fiblon, we only accept as our partners raw material suppliers who know exactly which forest their wood came from. The wood we use is certified, which means that it comes from sustainably managed forests. We do not want to transport raw materials from the other side of the globe, either. That’s why we favour Nordic wood. More than half of our raw materials are Finnish and we only import materials if we cannot purchase them here.
Although the chemicals used in the manufacturing of tissue paper stay within the closed system, it is important to choose the right partner. Nordic manufacturers are the best in their industry.
When the goal is to use products responsibly, it’s good to start by asking whether you need the product. Do you even need napkins? However, the answer is often ‘yes’. The product is needed – it’s mostly a matter of choosing between materials and manufacturers.
Choosing sustainable materials is important, but so is ensuring that the use of the product is optimised. Even if you choose a product carefully based on the materials used, the benefits from this can easily be offset if the total number of products used is excessive.
Before choosing a napkin it is very important to think about what kind of a napkin you need. Where will it be used, what does your business do and what is the concept? We offer our customers personalised solutions that guarantee that they are using products that meet their needs. When you use a product that is the right size and quality and ideal for the use, you can be sure the number of products used is optimal. Choosing a product that is too small usually leads to increased total usage, while products that are too large lead to increased amounts of waste and using an excessive amount of the material.
When looking at a disposable napkin that has been produced responsibly and selected with the help of an expert, it is easy to come to the conclusion that a disposable napkin is a sustainable choice. Of course, we can only speak for ourselves – all of our napkins are manufactured at our facilities in Pori. The way others make, design and select their products will affect many of the above-mentioned factors.
After use, all of the napkins we make can be disposed of with other organic waste. It is important to us to be familiar with our products’ entire life cycle. The material we use is a renewable natural resource, comes from local forests and can be disposed of as organic waste. Responsible and simple!
There are situations where cotton products are the best or even the only possible option. But if there are other options, they are worth considering. Demand that manufacturers provide you with more information and use our expertise for your benefit. We at Fiblon are here for you!
Making the world more sustainable, one napkin at a time!