What's your choice for taking care of business? Is it ultra-quilted? Made from virgin paper? If it is, you may be wiping out ancient forests with each swipe of the hand.
The sales of soft, fluffy toilet paper are up, which means that millions of trees are being cut down. Some of these trees were once alive and well in old-growth forests, something that is disappearing rapidly from our world.
“No forest of any kind should be used to make toilet paper.” - Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, Natural Resource Defense Council.
Why do we as consumers avoid recycled content toilet paper? It seems to mostly stem from our obsession for the softest choice possible for our backsides, and recycled TP has the reputation for being rough and not-so pleasant to use.
America only buys about 2% of its TP made from 100% recycled materials, and with each person flushing over 23 rolls per year down the toilet, that adds up to a lot of trees. In some regions of the world, such as Europe, 20% of the TP sold is made with at least some recycled fibers, and in other places, you're lucky to have any sort of paper at all in the bathroom.
Why is virgin pulp still used for toilet paper and tissue? Manufacturers claim that new fiber from trees is longer and can be fluffed up for a softer product, whereas recycled fibers are shorter and may end up making a coarser product.
Anywhere from 25 to 50% of the pulp in toilet paper comes from tree farms, but the rest is sourced from second-growth forests, say environmental groups like Greenpeace. These forests absorb CO2 and serve as important habitats for wildlife, including endangered species.
Making paper from trees also uses much more water than recycling paper does, and produces more incidental waste. Chlorine bleach is also used to whiten the pulp, which adds to the environmental burden of our air and water.
If you need some guidance in which brands to buy to support recycled-content tissue and TP, Greenpeace has a downloadable guide, Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide, and if you'd like to take a stand against the biggest tissue maker in the world, Kimberly-Clark, head over and send a letter to the CEO and President of KC.