Originally published on Page A1 of the York Daily Record/Sunday News on Tuesday, July 12, 2011.
By LAUREN BOYER
Daily Record/Sunday News
But things are changing. Kimberly-Clark has begun testing sales of the Scott Naturals Tube-Free brand of TP that doesn’t need a cardboard core to keep the good times rolling.
It’s the biggest change seen by toilet paper users since the roll first appeared in the 1800s.
But response locally isn’t all flushed with excitement for terminating the tube, often reused for arts and crafts projects or as pet toys.
On Monday, some York County consumers browsed the shelves of Walmart’s toilet paper aisle, checking out titles like Quilted Northern, Seventh Generation and Angel Soft.
Among the shoppers, Samm Reed of York seemed on the fence about the “green” product.
To her, the appearance of a brown cardboard cylinder signifies something momentous.
“You just know it’s done. It’s over. It’s finished. You need a new roll,” said Reed, while wandering the store in West Manchester Township. “There’s something about that tube.”
If Charmin made the product, perhaps she’d buy it, she said. She finds Scott too rough on her rump.
“To me, it’s almost generic,” she said. “There are some things you just can’t buy generic.”
Kari Love of West York pointed to the new rolls’ central holes.
Designed to fit around a spindle, they’re shaped like polygons instead of circles.
“How are you going to get your holder in there?” Love asked. “I’m in my 40s. I grew up and they always had a tube. I’m environmentally conscious. I recycle, but this doesn’t look like it’s going to work.”
According to a Kimberly-Clark news release, U.S. households use an estimated 17 billion bath tissue tubes annually, amounting to 160 million pounds of waste.
The company conducted a survey of 1,000 people that found 85 percent throw the tubes out with the trash.
Ellen O’Connor, spokeswoman for the York County Solid Waste Authority, said all consumers can make their journey to the john more environmentally friendly by recycling tubes.
Made of “ paper board,” the thinner, more flexible material, also used in cereal and tissue boxes, was likely recycled before, O’Connor said.
“I think anything companies can do to be innovative and reduce packaging is a great step for recycling,” she said. “Anytime you can reduce packaging, that’s fantastic.”
Bob Evans of York, a self-described recycling enthusiast, agreed with O’Connor.
“Why just toilet paper and not paper towels?” he asked. “This is a question that needs to be asked.”
At Walmart, Scott’s Naturals Tube-Free costs $2.97 for four rolls containing 205.2 square feet.
That compares to the tube-inclusive Scott brand, which costs $3.98 for four rolls containing 419.2 square feet of paper.
Anna Hall of West York didn’t seem so sure about paying more per sheet to lose the tubes, sometimes coveted by children as make-believe telescopes and finger puppets.
“Oh for Pete’s sake!” she said. “If they do away with (the tube), we won’t have anything to build with in Sunday school class.”