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Reacting to the move by certain companies to pull out tissue/toilet papers from the washroom as means of cutting cost, Upendra Deglurkar, GM-Institution & Healthcare, Kimberly-Clark India, feels that this economy measure by companies may not have much impact on the sales or the consumers, as many people do not use paper. “It is more a cosmetic addition in a washroom in India.”

Affirming Upendra’s view, G.G. Shenoy, Managing Director of Premier Tissues, says that the toilet tissue market in India is not as big as the foreign countries. “Abroad, the culture is to use toilet tissue for toilet purposes unlike India where everyone uses water. The usage of toilet tissue in India is not a big segment. If companies are doing away with toilet paper, it is not that alarming, as even though it is stocked in toilets, some people use and some don’t.”

“But,” cautions Upendra Deglurkar, “if eateries/companies opt to pulling out tissue towels and soaps, it definitely would have serious hygiene repercussions. People are provided with soap and tissue to ensure hand hygiene. Workers in enclosed offices are more prone to viruses and get contaminated easily. As multiple people use the same computer, hand hygiene is critical. Major consumers of tissue are from the offices, IT industry, banks, etc., or where a large number of people come together.

“Each employer has to realise that if 10 of their employees are taken ill it would do much harm to the company than resorting to proper hygiene practices with the use of tissues.”

Well then, the issue of the missing tissue is critical!

Kinds of tissues

Joseph Cayetty, who in 1857 for the first time produced toilet tissue on a machine, would find it hard today to believe how diverse the range of tissue and towelling products has become! Broadly speaking, tissue papers are nothing but a mesh of fibres made out of natural wood or other sources of fibre like grasses that are crushed and digested at pressures of steam and heat. The ensuing slurry produced goes through various processes of filtration, increasing the concentration of fibre and determining its length before it takes on the final dry form. Additives are included in the process to give it a wet strength and texture. Nonetheless, tissues are environment friendly.

Tissues are also made with recycled material. Pudumjee Hygiene Products Ltd also specialises in using recycled material which includes magazines, calendars, etc. “We have a specialised de-inking plant where used paper is treated and processed for graded tissues. The heat and steam used in the process destroy microorganisms making it hygienic. We also use environment friendly bleaching while treating coloured paper,” says Piyush Jindal, CEO of Pudumjee Hygiene. The paper produced either with virgin or recycled material is typically converted to paper napkins, kitchen towels, facial tissues, toilet papers and tissues for industrial use.

Of the tissue papers produced, consumption of toilet paper has the largest market share at about 59% in Europe followed by kitchen towels at 20%, facial tissue at 14% and napkins at about 7%. Globally, the growth of tissue industry could be in the toilet and facial tissue with Europe and America topping the list, but India, where the consumption is more in the towel category, has been tipped as the largest potential market for 2009-10.

Tissues are classified based on the texture and absorbency. Through the years, toilet paper has progressed from rather “harsh to the feel” brown paper to white bleached paper and made with great concern for softness.

Toilet paper is made to perform its intended function and also to break apart into its original wood fines after use. This makes biodegradation easier in septic tanks and water treatment facilities. But other products require more strength when they become wet.

“Well, how many of us know how different is a toilet tissue from a facial tissue except for its texture? How many of us know that toilet tissue is made out of a paper coming from a different mother roll?”

“Interesting in India, toilet tissue has many more usages rather than just in the toilet. People tend to use it for wiping TV screen, glasses, etc. Toilet tissue is coming of some age now,” says Shenoy.

Kitchen towel absorbs water, cooking oils and normal spills. It has higher absorbency, can be washed, squeezed and reused.

Facial tissue must receive some air pressure and moisture in normal use as well as in removing soaps and facial creams. It is made soft and absorbent replacing the erstwhile handkerchief.

In industries, special tissues replace lint used for cleaning.

Tissues are also used for wrapping. It is a type of thin, translucent paper used for wrapping and cushioning items. It is usually found in single sheets or sheet collections of 25, 40, or 50. White tissue is also sold specifically for bulk wrapping in reams. Some shops wrap delicate merchandise in folded or crumpled layers of tissue paper to protect it before placing it in bags or boxes for the purchaser. Production of tissue paper for wrapping is made by the machine glaze process. Slurry of fibre is placed on a forming wire where the water is allowed to drain away. The sheet is then pressed against a felt and pressed against a drying cylinder for the final drying step. The sheet is then pulled away from the dryer and wound up ready for further converting into wrapping paper.

“World over, in 2009, the manufacture of tissue papers is estimated to increase by over two million tonnes with about 100 new tissue machines being brought into production, according to a report. The size of the Indian tissue market is around 500 crores and is growing on its own at 35%.”

There are differences in the weights of various tissues and in the chemicals added to the basic wood pulp. Shenoy says, “The tissue for cleaning purposes is the towel tissue which is of a higher gsm (grams per square metre) where the fibre doesn’t fall out like the toilet tissue. Towel tissues have a high wet strength.”

The approximate paper strengths of various tissues are 13gsm for facial tissue, 17-18gsm for toilet tissue, 20-21gsm for napkin tissue, 24gsm for kitchen towel and 40gsm towel tissue.

Accordingly, facial tissues should not shred; toilet tissue should disintegrate and shred quickly; napkin should absorb and not shred; and towel should absorb, hold and not shred. The basic ingredient in all these tissues is the same but chemicals and finish differ.

According to Shenoy, the percentage consumption in India is as follows:

  • Towel: 50%+
  • Napkin: 25-30%
  • Toilet: 15%
  • Facial: 5-8%.
  • Soft napkin (mostly used in high end restaurants) and glazy napkin (the MG poster paper provided by the vendor and which doesn’t absorb): a small percentage.

Awareness & trends

India’s integration with the international world, increasing professionals travelling abroad, foreign companies setting shop in India, and increasing awareness of the use of tissue as an element of hygiene are some of the variables conducive to growth of tissue paper market in India.

Besides exposure, adds Upendra Deglurkar, “Usage of tissue developed with the need to keep employees healthy and to develop good habits so that when they went abroad they followed the same practices.

“A decade ago, the tissue market in India was restricted to the use of probably toilet and facial tissues. Imports were much more stringent and there were not many local brands or global representatives in the Indian market. Then, Kimberly-Clark made its presence with a bundle of toilet tissue and liquid soap pouches propagating the concept of hygiene. Though soaps are not a part of the tissue industry, we promoted its use as an essential commodity of hygiene along with the use of tissue,” states Upendra Deglurkar.

As a matter of fact, when shopping, people tend to pick up a tissue packet off the counter, either because it is less expensive or it has more tissues in one packet. These tissues picked up from the grocery shop or the wholesalers come from many small units that have mushroomed in this industry. These units manufacture all kinds of tissues with any type of imported mother roll, which is generally cheaper, irrespective of its quality, texture and weight.

“People are unaware that a toilet tissue is manufactured from a different type of mother roll which disintegrates when flushed down. Toilet papers otherwise could clog the sewage system in the long run. Similarly, facial tissues manufactured with the wrong base paper would be less absorbent and start shredding when wiping the face,” explains Jindal. Hence, tissue papers manufactured with the right base paper are restricted to products coming from big paper houses, including Pudumjee, Kimberly-Clark and Premier.

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