Towel products account for approximately 20% of all global tissue production. The production and converting of this towel inevitability result in a significant amount of waste that tissue makers need to recycle back into their process as opposed to sending to landfill. The key property of the towel is, of course, its ability to wipe up wet spills, which requires it to maintain its strength, and thereby its very structure, while wet. This property is endowed with the use of polyamide epichlorohydrin (PAE) resins. As might be expected, the very thing which renders its strength in use, inhibits its re-use, since it will resist breaking down into individual fibers that can be effectively re-used in the tissuemaking process.
For the longest time, the industry has relied on the oxidative power of hypochlorite (OCL-) to break down wet strength paper so that it could be recycled into the process. The hypochlorite oxidant functions by cleaving the polyamide backbone of the wet strength that holds the sheet structure together when wet. Unfortunately, hypochlorite and the caustic soda it is typically used with both have serious drawbacks for tissue makers related to operator safe handling due to their NFPA health rating of 3. Furthermore, the residual hypochlorite remaining in the stock after its repulping must be neutralized in order to prevent the oxidation of other chemistries, damage to machine clothing and increased potential for corrosion. In the end, the pulper mix used has disadvantages that tissue makers are familiar with.