Sustainability and savings one tissue at a time

If Canada-based manufacturer Fox Fold has its way, the often-debated question of whether toilet paper on a roll should be dispensed over or under would be moot.

According to the toilet paper and facial tissue manufacturer, it shouldn’t be on a roll at all, but folded, which creates a more sustainable and cost-efficient solution.

“My cofounder and cousin, Ludo Siouffi, who is now the CEO of the company, and I had a realization,” said Greg Hegger, COO, Fox Fold. “We traveled a lot for work and were always on the road. We noticed that whenever we were checking into a hotel, there was a big white glowing roll of toilet paper, and this ‘a-ha moment’ happened. I wondered what happens to all of these half-used rolls. My assumption was that they are getting changed. It’s not just coincidence or luck that there’s always a fresh roll in my room.”

Hegger, who at the time worked in telecommunications, and Siouffi, who worked in wealth management, knew some people in the hotel industry, and they also asked housekeeping staff whenever they stayed at a property and found that when a roll got to a certain point, it would go in the garbage.

Fox Fold has designed a system that changes the way toilet paper and facial tissues (above) are dispensed in hotels.

“Brand standards are such that when they do a guest changeover, housekeeping is going to replace the rolls so that there is a full roll,” said the COO. “It depends on the caliber of the hotel. At some five-star hotels, it is after each stay and at others, it is changed when it reaches a certain mark.

While some of the used rolls would be placed in a staff restroom, at the volume of rooms some hotels have, it was just thrown away. Toilet paper can’t be recycled, because it is water soluble.”

Hegger estimates that hotels are essentially wasting half of the toilet paper they purchase.
To combat this waste, Hegger and Siouffi decided that interfolded sheets of toilet paper, a concept that is popular in Europe, would be the right solution. The individual sheets of toilet paper come out of a dispenser much like facial tissue.

In conducting research on the product, they discovered that most of the dispensers were poor quality. “They are very industrial, very pedestrian and they are made of plastic,” said Hegger. “The quality of the tissue is low, and they are small squares and very rough.”

To come up with a better box, the company teamed up with Box Clever, a product design firm in San Francisco. “They heard what we were trying to do, loved it and became equity partners in the company,” he said.

The containers are made of metal. The panels and lid can be easily replaced and come in a variety of colors and finishes. “The reason that is important is that if something were to happen to it, you don’t have to replace the entire unit—everything can be taken off,” said Hegger. “You could do it in a few minutes.”

As for the toilet paper itself, the company chose to use bamboo, one of the most renewable resources available. “For us, it was always table stakes,” he said. “If we were going to go into the tissue game, regardless of changing the format, we wanted it to be either bamboo or pure virgin tree pulp.”

They couldn’t go with recycled paper because they couldn’t achieve the softness that they were looking for. Hegger noted, “I spoke to a lot of general managers and they said, ‘I don’t care how sustainable you are, if the tissue is not soft, I don’t want it.’”

While virgin tree pulp is the easiest way to provide a soft feel, it is not very sustainable. After much searching and testing, the company was able to find a bamboo product that created the softness they were looking for. “It really helps us promote this from a sustainable perspective,” he said. “Not only does the format help you save, but our raw material is far more sustainable than virgin wood.”

While Fox Fold was pitching the folded toilet paper to hotels, Hegger said that the general managers began asking them to solve their facial tissue problem. The tissues came in a traditional cardboard box, and when they reached the last few tissues in the box, they were also thrown away. To meet the challenge, the company used the same concept as the toilet paper using a spring-loaded refillable dispenser.

“With these refills, you can store twice as much tissue as your regular cardboard boxes, there is zero plastic and they are 100% FSC bamboo,” he said.

The COO added that the cost of their toilet paper is on par with the traditional variety, but when factoring in the amount that is just thrown away, the savings can be significant, with some estimates up to 50%.

With most guests unfamiliar with folded toilet paper, there is going to be a learning curve. Fox Fold is working with a hotel company on a trial use of its products. “We are designing these little cards that go on top of the dispensers that explain the partnership and the benefits of the product,” said Hegger. “We have a few really cool nuggets of information we can relay to the public.”

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