You may have read our recent review of recycled toilet roll brand BoxRoll (If you don’t have time, we rated the brand and its products’ 9/10).

As you know, at Plastic Free Home we like to do our homework and, whenever possible, put our questions directly to the brains behind the brands.

So, we spoke to the BoxRoll’s Steve Brown… (We were very impressed by his knowledge of the industry, what the brand has achieved to-date and his obvious passion for supporting zero waste and eco-friendly businesses).

How was BoxRoll “born”?

“BoxRoll is a response to our local and B2B customers in Leicestershire, who were seeking a UK manufactured, plastic packaging free, everyday product at an everyday price as part of their journey in reducing plastic usage.

Our existing relationship with UK tissue manufacturers has enabled us to develop the BoxRoll brand.

Our ethos from day one has been to concentrate on direct supply to independent businesses and private individuals, with a view to serving the local economy, providing access to UK manufactured products, supporting local employment and keeping the value within these areas, rather than the corporate high street and online retailers.”

Summarise your product range for us?

“The current product range consists of two toilet tissue products, both of which have 24 loose rolls in each BoxRoll box.

These are … our 2 Ply 100% recycled toilet paper, made from post-consumer waste paper with 300 pattern embossed sheets and a total length of 31.5 meters. And our 3 Ply 100% toilet paper made from pure virgin pulp with 150 pattern embossed sheets and a total length of 17.25 meters.”

Where are BoxRoll’s products made?

“Many people are not aware that the UK is a net importer of large tissue jumbo paper reels and always has been. The annual consumption for hygiene paper is ‘around’ 1.15 million tonnes per year, with UK tissue paper manufacturing capacity approximately 730,000 tonnes per year. The shortage in supply is filled by importing the jumbo tissue paper reels that are then converted within the UK into toilet rolls, kitchen towels, napkins and facial tissues. In other words, the UK has the capacity to convert paper in to finished products and to meet demand but lacks the tissue manufacturing paper mills to support that demand.

As a result, procurement for paper can prove to be difficult when guaranteeing that the reels used in conversion are manufactured in the UK and this has become increasingly difficult in the last 12 months.

Our connections within the tissue industry have meant that all parent reels used in the conversion for BoxRoll have, to date, been manufactured within the UK.

A last resort, in the event there is none available here in the UK, is that supply could be sourced in Europe but NO paper we use will be sourced from outside the EU should that happen.

The BoxRoll box and cardboard outer for shipping is also manufactured in the UK, along with the kraft paper tape used to seal each box.”

Who do you see as your immediate competitors?

“Like any market, the leading brands take centre stage, so the question is who the leading brands are and what makes them such?

Most of our ‘competitors’ on a like for like basis manufacture their products outside of the UK and their carbon footprint far exceeds that of BoxRoll, whilst they are also not using UK labour and materials to make their products.

There are currently lots of options in the marketplace, with new brands and differing marketing angles emerging weekly at present. We do not see ourselves as being in competition with them; rather we see BoxRoll as an alternative to them. Remember BoxRoll originated as a result of people looking for ‘an everyday product at an everyday price, that is plastic packaging free and manufactured in the UK and it is important to us that our focus and ethos stands firmly on those basic principles and does not get diluted by trying to compete with everyone else.”

Is recycled toilet paper “safe” and hygienic?

“Yes. We source our recycled paper from major tissue manufacturers who have their own brands and standards to meet, as well as industry standards.

No recycled paper is totally BPA free as it contains till receipts, thermal papers and lottery tickets etc, in the post-consumer waste paper collections. The question is how much BPA is in it? Recent industry studies evidence that a consumer will handle more paper in their day to day life containing BPA than is found within recycled toilet paper and detection levels are at ‘parts per billion’ rather than ‘parts per million’ before any traces are found.”

How does recycled toilet paper compare to bamboo toilet paper?

Great question! I think we firstly need to look at what we are doing with these products in that they have no ‘after life’ so once they have been used, that’s it they are gone and cannot be recycled.

The question we need to ask ourselves is why you would want to use, what appears to be a more environmentally sustainable product, manufactured half way around the world and then flush it down the loo after its one use application? The product could be made of banana skins, dock leaves or bamboo but it still only has a single life after travelling all that way and we don’t see the sense in that.

Would it not be a better use of bamboo to use it in products that can then be recycled into another product and with a longer life cycle, rather than a toilet roll, kitchen towel of facial tissue?

You also don’t get to hear as much about the negative aspects of bamboo. It can only be harvested once per year [sometimes longer] and forests offer a better use of land in terms of habitat value, biodiversity, water quality protection and soil carbon storage.

So, is recycled paper better than bamboo..? Well, at least with a recycled paper product it’s on the last leg of its journey rather than a fibre that has just started its lifecycle, on the other side of the world, and can never to be used again.”

Are your products bleached?

“As above, our paper is supplied by major brand manufacturers who only use environmentally friendly methods of manufacture and the days of chlorine bleaching are now obsolete within the tissue industry, even though historically the amount used was in fact minimal. A good observation is also, that with the odd exception of an unbleached version, bamboo is also bleached.”

Let’s talk price..?

“The direct purchase price for a minimum order quantity of three BoxRoll boxes is £39.65 [delivered to your door] for 72 toilet rolls, which is 55p per roll.

Our reason for having a minimum order quantity of three boxes is that we want to encourage customers to shop at their local zero waste shop or eco-friendly stockist for either single loose rolls or a single box and to support that business in their area where possible. If we were to retail ‘single boxes’ directly, we would remove that advantage for these independent businesses.

Each 2 ply recycled toilet roll has 300 sheets and is 31.5 meters long; the 3 ply luxury [virgin pulp] toilet roll has 150 sheets and is 17.25 meters long.

You asked what the cost per sheet is, but the question is better answered by what the cost per meter length is, as sheets lengths vary from brand to brand [touché!]. For example, the Eco BoxRoll is 105mm long per sheet and the Luxury BoxRoll is 115mm long per sheet. Other brands vary from 100mm – 125mm, so what appears to be a good purchase actually isn’t always as competitive as we are lead to believe by counting sheets.

One leading brand had 400 sheets until recently [WGAC] and was 40 meters in length. Our current recycled product has 300 sheets and is 31.5 meters in length. The 400 sheet brand has now been reduced to 370 sheets and is retailing at the same price which makes it even more expensive in comparison.”

What next for BoxRoll?

“In March we will be replacing the ‘Eco’ 2 Ply recycled toilet roll with an ‘Eco Plus’ 2 Ply recycled toilet roll. The purchase price will be the same as the current Eco BoxRoll but it will have 400 sheets with a total length of 42 meters per roll.

That means there will be over 1km of paper in each Eco Plus BoxRoll box! [Okay, we’re impressed!]

Around the same time we will also be launching a Boxroll 2 Ply recycled kitchen towel product [great news!]

The next major project for us is using UK grown Hemp fibre, but the issue at the moment is the capital investment required to use this in tissue products and if anything it will be more suited to a kitchen towel product rather than toilet tissue due to the fibre length & strength… we expect this to be another two to three years away but it’s certainly something we are aiming for.

Finally, whilst assessing our end to end carbon footprint we have recently partnered with a local company who provide emission free delivery and, where possible, we use this preferred method for supplies to our more local wholesalers [excellent!]. We will continue to follow the new wave of investment and development in emission free logistics and factor it into our business model as wider services become available to us.”

Visit BoxRoll’s website to find out more or to order yours today. If you do, give us a mention and tell Steve we said “hi!”

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