Plastic Free Home with David Lamont
You may have read our recent review of recycled toilet roll brand BoxRoll: we gave the brand and its products nine out of 10.
As you know, at Plastic Free Home we like to do our homework and, whenever possible, put our questions directly to the brains behind the brands. We spoke to the BoxRoll’s Steve Brown to find out more.
“BoxRoll is a response to our local and B2B customers in Leicestershire, who were seeking a UK manufactured, plastic packaging free, everyday product at an everyday price as part of their journey in reducing plastic usage,” he said.
“Our ethos from day one has been to concentrate on direct supply to independent businesses and private individuals, with a view to serving the local economy, providing access to UK manufactured products, supporting local employment and keeping the value within these areas, rather than the corporate high street and online retailers.”
There are two toilet tissue products in each range, a two-ply made from recycled paper, and a three-ply made from pure virgin pulp. Both come in boxes of 24.
Steve says that many aren’t aware that the UK imports much of its tissue paper reels, with the country using around 1.15 million tonnes per year, but only making 730,000 tonnes.
“In other words, the UK has the capacity to convert paper into finished products and to meet demand but lacks the tissue manufacturing paper mills to support that demand,” Steve said.
“As a result, procurement for paper can prove to be difficult when guaranteeing that the reels used in conversion are manufactured in the UK and this has become increasingly difficult in the last 12 months.
“Our connections within the tissue industry have meant that all parent reels used in the conversion for BoxRoll have, to date, been manufactured within the UK.”
Who do you see as your immediate competitors?
“Most of our ‘competitors’ on a like-for-like basis manufacture their products outside of the UK and their carbon footprint far exceeds that of BoxRoll, while they are also not using UK labour and materials to make their products,” Steve said, adding that he doesn’t see BoxRoll as in competition, instead they are an alternative.
“BoxRoll originated as a result of people looking for ‘an everyday product at an everyday price, that is plastic packaging free and manufactured in the UK and it is important to us that our focus and ethos stands firmly on those basic principles and does not get diluted by trying to compete with everyone else.”
How does recycled toilet paper compare to bamboo toilet paper?
“I think we firstly need to look at what we are doing with these products in that they have no ‘after life’ so once they have been used, that’s it they are gone and cannot be recycled,” Steve explained.
“The question we need to ask ourselves is why you would want to use, what appears to be a more environmentally sustainable product, manufactured halfway around the world and then flush it down the loo after its one use application?
“The product could be made of banana skins, dock leaves or bamboo but it still only has a single life after travelling all that way and we don’t see the sense in that.”
He thinks bamboo would be better pressed into use for products with a longer life cycle.
“Bamboo can only be harvested once per year [sometimes longer] and forests offer a better use of land in terms of habitat value, biodiversity, water quality protection and soil carbon storage,” he explained.
“So, is recycled paper better than bamboo? At least with a recycled paper product it’s on the last leg of its journey rather than a fibre that has just started its lifecycle, on the other side of the world, and can never be used again.”
BoxRoll’s minimum order is for three boxes – 72 rolls – for £39.65. Steve said that this is because they want people to shop at their local store to support that business. He also wants people to look at the length rather than the number of sheets.
Each 2-ply recycled toilet roll has 300 sheets and is 31.5 meters long; the 3 ply luxury [virgin pulp] toilet roll has 150 sheets and is 17.25 meters long.
“You asked what the cost per sheet is, but the question is better answered by what the cost per meter length is, as sheets lengths vary from brand to brand,” Steve said.
“For example, the Eco BoxRoll is 105mm long per sheet and the Luxury BoxRoll is 115mm long per sheet. Other brands vary from 100mm-125mm, so what appears to be a good purchase actually isn’t always as competitive as we are led to believe by counting sheets.
“One leading brand had 400 sheets until recently [WGAC] and was 40 meters in length. Our current recycled product has 300 sheets and is 31.5 meters in length. The 400 sheet brand has now been reduced to 370 sheets and is retailing at the same price which makes it even more expensive in comparison.”
The company will be expanding its range, including recycled kitchen towel and toilet roll.
There’s more to come: “The next major project for us is using UK-grown hemp fibre, but the issue at the moment is the capital investment required to use this in tissue products and if anything it will be more suited to a kitchen towel product rather than toilet tissue due to the fibre length and strength.
“We expect this to be another two to three years away but it’s certainly something we are aiming for”