Many factors are driving the increased use of toilet paper: growing populations, adoption of Western lifestyles, and sanitation improvements in developing countries. And despite the economic downturn, global consumption is projected to hold steady or grow.
But what about the impacts? Worldwide, the equivalent of almost 270,000 trees is either flushed or dumped in landfills every day, according to Claude Martin of WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature). Roughly 10 percent of that total is attributable to toilet paper. The result is that forests in both the global North and South are under assault by paper companies competing to fill what they insist is an inexhaustible consumer demand for, among other paper products, soft, fluffy toilet paper. The expanding global demand for toilet paper and the accompanying environmental effects of raw material sourcing and manufacturing are intensifying the focus on the source and production of tissue.
Every supermarket has a whole aisle dedicated to it, and every shopping list has it on somewhere. Toilet roll is an everyday commodity that most people in the world see as a necessity rather than a luxury, but how many of us think about what impact having such a basic convenience is having on the increasingly fragile planet in which we live?
With such a high consumption of toilet roll in the world today, some environmental campaigners now believe that the use of toilet roll is causing more damage to our environment than large SUVs, energy-guzzling mansions and fast food chains which is something that none of us would believe for a second. But, it is scarily true!
Tissue paper basically comes from trees but much of the toilet roll that has been produced in recent years is largely made up from recycled paper. However, with more and more companies encouraging customers to go “paperless” (which in itself is a fantastic step forward for the world’s forests), everyday products including toilet roll are now having to return to the use of raw materials meaning trees are coming down again at a staggering rate.
It is thought that the average tree can produce around 1,000 rolls of toilet roll and with America alone using an average of 7 billion rolls every year, it means that 7 million trees have to be cut down to produce such a high volume of toilet roll (in the USA alone). And added to this enormous problem, is the “comfort factor” that big brands promote which includes quilted and lotioned toilet roll…all of which adds to the environmental impact. Additionally to this the comfort focus of many brands dictate that they use freshly cut paper rather than recycled, adding to the hugely wasteful cycle.