Consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble faces pressure from environmentalists to clean up its act. 

More than 150 groups are pushing the maker of Charmin toilet paper and Bounty paper towels to use recycled materials in its products. Currently, neither of those products uses recycled paper, and about one-third of it is sourced from Canada's boreal forest — a large swath of virgin forest that rings the Arctic Circle and acts as a critical check on climate change.

"It's just unacceptable that a company like P&G is making toilet paper, a product that is used for seconds and flushed, from virgin pulp," said Shelley Vinyard, boreal corporate campaign manager for the Natural Resources Defense Council and one of several dozen protesters at P&G's annual shareholders meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Tuesday. 

The NRDC likens Canada's vast forests to "the Amazon of North." Replacing just half of P&G's virgin pulp usage with recycled content "would dwarf the company's current climate commitments," the NRDC said in a letter to the company that was co-signed by 150 other activist groups.

P&G offers a simple reason for not using recycled wood pulp: It doesn't make for good toilet paper.

"Have you tried recycled toilet paper yourself?" a P&G spokeswoman asked CBS MoneyWatch who also pointed to Charmin as a superior product. "I promise you'll enjoy it much more," she said.

 

P&G is one of the world's largest consumer products companies, with annual revenue of $67 billion and a stock market value of $305 billion. Along with Charmin and Bounty, its many brands include Crest toothpaste, Gillette razors, Head & Shoulders shampoo, Pampers diapers and Tide laundry detergent.

Toilet paper made from recycled fibers doesn't have the same qualities, causing people to use more tissue made directly from trees, the spokeswoman added. She also noted that P&G's experience making recycled tissue products shows that "a significant amount of recycled fibers ends up as solid waste sludge going to landfill."

Instead, P&G promises to source its paper from forests that are well-managed, which in the company's view is a more responsible course of action than using recycled products. About 40% of its product line today comes from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, a nonprofit conservation group, according to the company and the FSC.

36 billion toilet paper rolls per year

"Personally, I buy recycled toilet paper because we can and it's good for the Earth," said Andrew Musgrave, director of Catholic Social Action at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and one of the 150 signatories to the letter sent to P&G.