5 - 2010

The BEST price on recycled tissue | Wednesday on Waste

Last week’s article on recycled toilet paper costs has brought a few comments. One of them relates to pricing, and I wanted to address it here.

And remember, time still remains to enter the giveaway for the case of recycled toilet paper from Seventh Generation.

Reader Ruthie commented:

Check out Staples or Office Depot for Marcal toilet paper. We have found it’s the best buy for sure, being 100% recycled and the least expensive. You can also order from Office Depot and get it shipped to you.

I thought, “Uh-oh … did I miss the very best option?”

So I checked it out. Marcal toilet tissue indeed costs around $30 for a package of 48 rolls (slightly more at the office stores, slightly less at warehouse stores like Sam’s Club and Costco). That’s 46 percent less than the $56 for 48 rolls of Seventh Gen.

But is it truly that much cheaper? Read on …

I have seen Marcal’s ads, with the company’s hiking CEO, and its information about the millions of trees the business has saved with its Small Steps recycled products. One of Marcal’s coolest features, which I learned about by visiting the company’s press room, is that “70 percent of the recycled paper Marcal Small Steps uses — collected curbside from residential neighborhoods, from small blue baskets in office buildings, unwanted junk mail and printer’s waste — comes from within 150 miles of the company’s Elmwood Park, NJ manufacturing facility, minimizing fuel usage and emissions.”

Marcal didn’t make my original toilet paper list because while I often see coupons in the newspaper for Marcal products, my local stores don’t carry the toilet paper and only sometimes carry the paper towels. Also, on the Greenpeace tissue guide, Marcal is listed as using only having 30 percent post-consumer recycled content, although the overall recycled content is 100 percent. However, on Amazon, I noticed it says Marcal bath tissue is 60 percent post-consumer, which would have qualified for the Greenpeace guide. I checked this out with the company.  A representative replied:

We don’t currently list the PCC content on any of our packaging because depending on our production demand it can vary.  We are usually around 60% but that number can drop as low as 30% or as high as 70% on the various items within our line.  As a company we are striving to get to 100% and are working towards that goal.

That response seems fair, especially given the local paper they use.

Now what about the cost?

Here’s where Marcal doesn’t win, believe it or not. Even though you can buy 48 rolls of Marcal tissue for almost half the price of 48 rolls of Seventh Generation tissue, to find the best value, you have to compare the amount of paper you get.

Via Amazon, a case of Seventh Gen 1-ply costs from $1 to $1.17 per roll. With 1,000 sheets per roll, that is $0.0010 to $0.0012 per sheet.

Marcal 1-ply (from Sam’s Club online — the lowest price I found this week) costs $1.30 per roll. Also with 1,000 sheets, the per-sheet cost is $0.0013. (And for the 1-ply tissue, a case is 40 rolls, not 48, and costs a $52 outlay, not $30.)

Marcal’s 2-ply paper is what costs $30 per case, which comes with 48 rolls of 300 sheets each. That’s quite a difference from 1,000 sheets. If you used half the tissue per lavatory visit, it would only be equivalent to 600 single-ply sheets. The per-roll cost is $0.61, which is indeed low, but the per-sheet cost is $0.0020.  Even if we assume you’ll use twice as much one-ply as you would two-ply, the per-sheet cost comes out the same, at best.

And for comparison’s sake, Seventh Generation’s two-ply tissue comes out to $0.0018 per sheet or $0.89 per roll, and has 500 sheets per roll.

Ultimately, you get 7,872 more sheets in a case of Seventh Gen two-ply than in a case of Marcal two-ply. That is equivalent to 26 more rolls in a case! Put another way, every roll of Seventh Generation two-ply is like more than 1.5 rolls of Marcal two-ply. And for you super-waste-savers, you eliminate 26 paper cores by choosing a case of bigger rolls.

What’s the bottom line?

This research shows that if you really want to know the best deal, the difference is in the per-unit price, even down to sheets of TP. You don’t have to make a spreadsheet (you can come here for that kind of crazy!), but take a calculator along and do some dividing. Sometimes the per-unit price is on the tag, but if it is not, or if the units are not the same between products, the formula is:

Cost divided by units = price per unit.

If you want to avoid Amazon, if you only want to spend $30 at a time, if you have an Office Depot gift card you want to use, or if for some other reason you prefer Marcal, you won’t go broke buying it. Recycled paper is still recycled paper, which is to say a much better environmental choice than virgin paper, especially for a product that is going to go straight into municipal sewage or a septic tank.

A final note: Marcal has not yet earned the strong reputation as an environmentally committed business that Seventh Generation has; a quick search turned up this blog post, which worries about orders Marcal received from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up a water way polluted by polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins from its paper plant in New Jersey.

Want all the details? Click here to see the updated toilet paper cost spreadsheet in a new window.

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