As one of the world’s most in-demand resources, paper has a massive carbon footprint. Because of the waste it creates, many are recycling or seeking paper alternatives. Startup MOO produces business cards made with fabric waste, while Paper Saver is a no-new-paper journal. Now, a Dutch province is recycling tons of toilet paper into a 1km bike path for cyclists.
The bicycle path uses what’s called tertiary cellulose, extracted from waste streams, says Erik Pijlman, director at KNN Cellulose, one of the partners on the project. “We take the cellulose out of these streams and once again make it into a [raw material],”
But not to worry — you won’t be seeing any remnants of used tissues on the bike path. The process includes sifting paper fibers, which are then cleaned, sterilized, bleached, and dried. To say the technique is doing fine is an understatement — it’s taking over Dutch roads.
“What we did is not only create technology and prove that it works, but we also have a market that is willing to take in the material,” Pijlman says. “And that’s really the next step in this kind of development.”
The fiber can also be used in creating filters, biofuel, and textiles, among other things. Of course, while in theory it’s useful in creating other products, we’ll keep it away from direct human contact. No one wants a stinky pillow case.