We periodically test our household paper products for bisphenol-A, or BPA. In the past, these tests did not reveal any hint of this substance. Recently however, a more sensitive test became available, allowing us to test for much smaller amounts of BPA, going from "parts per million" detection levels to "parts per billion" levels. This test revealed that a small amount of BPA was, in fact, present in our recycled paper products at these new detection levels.
Our research shows that the likely source of this BPA is the thermal papers used for cash register, ATM, and other receipts, which are often made with BPA. When these papers are recycled, the BPA they contain ends up in the new paper that results. And recycling that paper again keeps this BPA in the recycling loop.
This highlights an emerging issue: BPA is now used in so many different kinds of products that it has become a common "background" pollutant found virtually everywhere—from soil and water to food and recycled paper. This widespread environmental problem is likely to affect every recycled paper towel and tissue paper product on the market made from post consumer waste. Although it frequently goes unadvertised, there are almost no brands being made today without recycled fibers. Some tests have shown that even some virgin paper products have detectable levels of BPA.
The good news is that we believe a dedicated effort from a small number of companies can solve this problem. As part of that, we are actively working with regulators, NGOs, retailers, paper manufacturers, and others to overcome this challenge and are committed to seeking a solution that will allow our recycled paper products to remain the most sustainable choice.