Choose eco-friendly toilet paper
Over the last few years, the number of brands of recycled toilet paper has risen steadily and has become more widely available. So there's no need to use toilet paper made from the virgin pulp of old growth forest .
What to look for when choosing eco-friendly toilet paper
Pay particular attention to these two attributes:
- Post-consumer recycled content: Regardless of the brand you choose, verify what percentage of post-consumer fiber the product contains. PCW or Post-consumer waste (the reborn paper products made from your recycling bin contributions) is preferred to pre-consumer (often originating from manufacturing waste) because it means support for community recycling programs. Don’t be fooled by labels touting the word "recycled" without a PCW percentage since the product is likely made with only a fraction of post-consumer waste—typically as little as 10 percent. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) provides a very useful Toilet Paper Guide, neatly charting data on different brands of toilet paper, covering three important points: the bleaching process, the percent recycled, and the percent of toilet paper made from post-consumer waste. You’ll want to pay special attention to their recommendations for which brands to avoid altogether.
- Chlorine usage: Check to see how the product has been whitened, being careful to avoid products whitened with chlorine bleach. Look for "processed chlorine-free" (PCF) which means no toxic chemicals ending up in the water supplies. Though “elemental chlorine free (ECF)” might seem a good alternative, it’s not, so dodge brands sporting that claim. Or avoid the hassle of checking for chlorine altogether by choosing “natural” colored paper products instead, since that’s likely to indicate the fibers haven’t been whitened at all.
Find it! Eco-friendly toilet paper
Many brands are now available in natural food stores,online, and increasingly at your local grocery store.
Canadian brand of 100 percent recycled 2-ply bathroom toilet paper. Tissue is made with a high percentage of post-consumer waste fibers and is produced with 80 percent less water than the industry average. It is bleached without chlorine and is safe for septic systems. Comes in 4-pack and 24-pack sizes.
Order some Green Forest toilet paper (online) the next time you run out. It contains a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content, is whitened without the use of chlorine, and soft and absorbent.
Made with 20 to 60 percent post-consumer recycled fibers, Marcal's toilet tissue is part of a range of eco-friendly products offered. Marcal's earth-conscious efforts have saved 6,000 trees, 2 million gallons of water, 140,000 gallons of oil, 30,000 cubic feet of landfill space, and 22,000 pounds of pollution to date.
Seventh Generation brand toilet tissue contains 80 percent post-consumer waste, 20 percent pre-consumer waste, and is 100 percent chlorine-free. It is hypoallergenic and safe to use with septic systems.
Before you buy
Some people claim that recycled toilet paper brands are not as soft as non-recycled brands. If you're concerned, do a test yourself by buying a few different brands and taking them for test-drive. Or ask yourself this question posed by a representative from the NRDC: "How soft do you need something to be that soft that you use for five seconds?" Maybe soft enough is good enough if it also means saving thousands of trees.
Choosing recycled toilet paper helps you go green because…
- About 424,000 trees would be spared by replacing a 500-sheet roll of virgin fiber toilet paper with a 100 percent recycled one in every household in the US.
The WorldWatch Institute estimates that US toilet paper sales were $5.7 billion in 2005. The average per capita use of toilet paper in the US is 23.0 kilograms, or 50.7 pounds per year. Some facial/bathroom tissue companies, such as Kimberly-Clarke (makers of the Kleenex brand) unsustainably harvest old growth forests to manufacture disposable paper products. The paper industry consumes 35 percent of all harvested trees every year, accounting for the felling of nearly 4 billion individual trees yearly.
Most conventional facial/bathroom tissue companies, such as Kimberly-Clarke (makers of the Kleenex brand) unsustainably harvest old growth forests to manufacture disposable paper products. The production of virgin fiber tissue products is contributing to the destruction of vast tracts of forest lands (most of which are in Canada) that have existed for thousands of years. Yet, worldwide forest ecosystems are critical to maintaining life on Earth. They filter the air, stabilize climate by absorbing CO2, and provide habitat for 90 percent of all land-dwelling plants and animals.
Another major problem with toilet paper is the way the pulp is processed. Chlorine dioxide is often used as a bleaching agent. This process creates chemicals that are released into the environment, including dioxin, a known carcinogen.
Only 19 percent of paper pulp is from recycled content. Many companies, including Kimberly-Clarke, play up their use of virgin pulp, suggesting it produces softer paper products. Yet there is no evidence that these claims are true.
- dioxin: Dioxins are extremely persistent chemical compounds that are created inadvertently by human activities like incineration and fuel combustion. Dioxins break down slowly so they persist in the environment for many years. Exposure to dioxins may cause adverse health effects, such as cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, and skin disease.
- elemental chlorine-free (ECF): This designation indicates that virgin fibers were treated without elemental chlorine, but that a chlorine derivative such as chlorine dioxide was used instead. Although preferable to chlorine-bleached paper products, this is nowhere near as eco-friendly as PCF paper products.
- old growth forest: Also known as virgin forest, ancient forest, or primary forest, this is an area of forest which has attained great age, containing a variety of vertical layers of vegetation, including large live trees. These forests may also be home to many rare species that are dependent on these ecologically unique old growth features.
- post-consumer waste (PCW): Refers to recycled content that results from curb-side collection. For example, your recycled Sunday paper is considered PCW. Post-consumer waste is the most desirable content in a recycled product, since it creates a market for paper that has already been used and would otherwise end up in a landfill.
- pre-consumer waste: A type of waste recovered from the manufacturing process that has not met its intended use because of defect or as an acceptable leftover. Examples include paper trimmings from paper production, mill converting scraps, defective aluminum cans, and pulp substitutes.
- recycled paper: Refers to paper scraps and trimmings that result from paper companies' manufacturing process. This is easiest to recycle because the scraps don't require any collection, sorting, or de-inking. However, it doesn't promote any consumer-based initiative related to recycling.
- The Conservatree Guide to Environmentally Sound Tissue Papers
- Greenpeace - Kleercut Campaign
- Grist - On Recycled Toilet Paper: An Affinity That Chafes Our Ends
- MSNBC - Ready to rethink toilet paper for Earth Day?: Pros, cons of switching to recycled tissue—and a family’s personal tale
- Worldcentric - Post Consumer Waste, Chlorine Free Recycled Paper
- National Resources Defense Council - Paper Industry Laying Waste to North American Forests