By: Anna Shepard Eco-Worrier
Q Is it better to use tissues or real handkerchiefs?
A Hankies all the way. Kinder on the nose, they also save trees and reduce landfill. A tissue is a one-use-only product. Needless to say, if you don’t use the recycled variety, you are using virgin fibre fresh from the forest, which requires a significant amount of energy to transform into a silky-smooth tissue.
Under Health and Safety regulations you can’t recycle tissues as they are considered contaminated. Composting them is the best disposal method, but I know that when I have a stinking cold the amount of tissue I get through would overwhelm my wormery.
According to the European Tissue Symposium, an average European will use 13kg of tissue (including toilet tissue) a year, which is the average weight of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy.
This only highlights the merits of a lovely organic cotton hanky (try organically.co.uk ; boxes of eight from £12.99). Some people may be a little squeamish about carrying a bundle of germs in their pocket all day long, but they will quite happily ferry filthy tissues around, which is essentially the same thing.
Then there’s the matter of washing your hanky. Depending on how, erm, congested, you are, you may prefer to soak your dirty hanky before putting it in the wash. I bother to do this only when my sinuses are really playing up; the rest of the time I have no qualms about dropping a hanky in the washing machine with the rest of my clothes.
My mother has an ancient saucepan she reserves for boiling hankies, although, worryingly, I’m sure that I’ve seen her using it for boiling eggs. But there’s no time for hygiene obsessives when it comes to being green.
I’m lucky enough to have inherited some of Grandpa’s trademark red spotted hankies. He would never have been seen mopping his nose with a paper tissue. Regardless of the waste implications, it was a question of style.