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This Famous Toilet-Paper Maker Is Ditching the Cardboard Tube

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Need more proof that slight and sudden innovation can bring forth seismic change to even the unlikeliest of product categories? Look no further than leading paper hygiene manufacturer Kimberly-Clark -- which is removing the central cardboard tubes from traditional toilet paper rolls.

With the national rollout of Scott Naturals Tube-Free bath tissue, the company says it is looking to cut down on unnecessary waste. “This simple step has major potential to eliminate a portion of the 17 billion toilet paper tubes thrown away each year,” according to a press release, “which is enough to fill the Empire State Building twice.”

Ironically, Scott -- which was acquired by Kimberly-Clark in 1995 -- was the first company to introduce toilet paper on a roll in 1890, according to The Toilet Paper Encyclopedia. Previously, the product was mostly consumed as packaged sheets.

Though the new rolls function much like traditional toilet paper -- “when you get to that last sheet, it just rolls off,” brand manager Jared Mackrory told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -- they do tend to wobble a little while unrolling.

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Pricing is also comparable to traditional rolls. At Walmart, a Tube-Free 12-pack costs $8.87 while an Extra-Soft 12-pack, with tubes, will set you back $8.54.

And the cost to the company is the same, the Journal Sentinel reports, in that extensive engineering and market research expenses have been offset by cardboard savings. No plant jobs have been eliminated as a result of the product either, the company said.

Riding an environmental wave, the product originally debuted in limited northeastern markets in 2010. Last week, the company touted the national rollout with a marketing event in New York featuring a 30-foot replica of the Empire State Building constructed completely from repurposed cardboard rolls.

Scott has also introduced a hashtag on Twitter encouraging consumers to #TossTheTube.

Related: Illinois Outlaws Beauty Products Containing Non-Biodegradable Microbeads

Geoff Weiss

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Geoff Weiss is a former staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.