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Tork Thinks Ahead to Sustainability in its Hand Hygiene Products and Innovative Business Model

October 11, 2023

This information was originally published on Essity’s Global Handwashing Day Page.

Global Handwashing Day provides a key moment to highlight our hand hygiene expertise and show how we are leading with sustainability driven innovation. Handwashing with soap is substantially more effective at cleaning your hands than handwashing with water alone. But with good hand washing also comes the use of soap, water and paper towels. That is why sustainability is another important aspect to consider at global handwashing day. With our new soap and dispenser claims, customers do not have to choose between hygiene and sustainability. For example, 9 out of 10 Tork soaps are made with at least 94% ingredients from natural origins* and a range of Tork dispensers for hand hygiene have carbon neutral certification.**

* according to global sales 2022, specification and ISO16128

**produced with certified renewable electricity, and the remaining carbon emissions are compensated with climate projects

EU Global Handwashing Day Infographic – Tork, an Essity Brand


Compared to paper hand towels, jet air dryers produce more airborne droplets (Best et al. J Hosp Infection, 2014), increasing the risk of bacteria spread. Paper towels are the more hygienic way to dry hands and are therefore recommended in hygiene-critical environments.

How is Tork Leading Sustainability in Hand Hygiene Products?

A mechanism to reduce waste is necessary to preserve the health benefits of drying hands with paper towels, while continuing to center sustainability, Today, too many resources are still not being recovered and turned into new usable products, often due to complexity inherent in the recycling process or a lack of well-functioning waste systems. For example, only about <1% of paper hand towels are recycled. Hence, there is a lot of untapped potential for companies active within Professional Hygiene in putting paper hand towels into a circular business model – turning waste into a new resource. With this aim, Tork pioneered Tork PaperCircle® – the World’s first recycling service for paper towels.

This astonishing low statistic stems from the wet-strength agent added in the manufacturing of paper hand towels that makes its job possible – the ability to dry hands in a hygienic and efficient way. This wet-strength agent requires that paper hand towels undergo a separate recycling process from other paper-based materials. That makes recycling a much costlier proposition. Recent technical innovations, however, have advanced the recovery and recycling rates of other paper materials. That is why we believe the time is right to partner up with other actors to support implementation and sharing knowledge and proving the benefits of new circular models with Life Cycle Assessments.

Recycling paper hand towels offers the potential to reduce CO2  by 40% compared to current waste handling systems such as incineration or landfill. Hygiene and health company Essity has taken a lead role to change the paper hand towel recycling and recovery rates. We launched Tork PaperCircle – a circular service designed to recycle our Tork paper hand towel brand and turn the consumed materials into new paper hand towels and other tissue products.



Enabling recycling through behavioral change

Paper hand towels require a separate recycling process from other paper materials. Our approach to an efficient resource recovery design starts in the washroom. The goal is to separate used products from the beginning by encouraging consumers to place used paper hand towels in a separate, designated bin. By adopting behavioral science techniques, we “nudge” consumers to help the recycling program by designing a surrounding that promotes desired behaviors – either by making the wanted action the easy and intuitive one, or by making the consumer stop and reflect on behavior before action.

The importance of stakeholder collaboration

Implementing a circular business model requires collaboration, dedication and patience among stakeholders throughout the supply chain. The Tork PaperCircle service implementation found it essential to partner with both facility management companies and waste/logistics companies.

For Essity, the transition to sustainability requires that other stakeholder groups, such as paper mills, distributors, facility managers, logistics, waste management and the recycling partner come together to identify viable opportunities for positive environmental impacts.

Read more about Tork’s circularity model in the 2021 Whitepaper

Make the smarter choice and change to Tork paper hand towels today | Tork UK

Category: Community Forum

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