Move to weaken eco-label criteria for tissue products

Industry lobbying appears to have succeeded in weakening the proposed EC eco-labelling criteria for toilet and kitchen tissues. The European Commission has now proposed that Member States should be able to adopt their own definitions of "sustainable forestry", and put forward less stringent criteria for AOX discharges for pulp mills.

The criteria-setting process for toilet paper and kitchen tissue has been a tale of missed deadlines, as with many other product groups in the initial phase of the eco-labelling scheme. The most recent delay came in June, when the Commission put off submitting draft criteria for the two products to a Regulatory Committee in the penultimate stage of the process.

Instead, the Commission tabled "possible modifications" to the previous proposals (ENDS Report 219, p 26 ) at a meeting of national competent bodies at the end of July. The UK Eco-labelling Board is now seeking the views of interested parties to help formulate its response. The criteria are not expected to be reach the Regulatory Committee before October, and published around the end of the year.

The Commission has put forward two key modifications. The first is the definition of sustainable forestry to which the production of fibre for eco-labelled tissue products must adhere. The last draft tightened up on this, demanding a "management plan" from the producers. But the Commission is now proposing to water this down in the short term, allowing Member States to use the definition of sustainable forest management used by their forestry authorities. However, an international agreement on definitions and criteria must be taken into account when this is done.

The second area of contention has been the limits set for AOX - the measurement used for discharges of chlorinated organics from pulp mills. The last draft saw these tightened. But the Commission now wants the original values restored, lowering the "hurdle" which the process must pass from 1 to 2kg AOX per tonne of product. This largely reflects lobbying by tissue manufacturers who were alarmed that tissues made from 100% virgin fibre might not pass the tougher hurdle.

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