Toilet paper. We don't talk about this much, but I reckon we should. We all need it and use it - well a great proportion of people in developed countries anyway, and global consumption is rising. What's your wipe of choice? I'm shifting from recycled paper to tree-free.
27,000 trees a day to wipe bottoms.
Worldwide, around 270,000 trees are either flushed or dumped in landfills every day. About 10 percent of this is toilet paper. Also the production of each toilet paper roll uses about 140 litres of water.
Only 5% recycled toilet paper used.
Most toilet paper is made from virgin paper. In Australia, only 5% of our toilet paper comes from recycled paper.
According to the Australian Conservation Foundation every tonne of paper recycled saves:
2.5 barrels of oil (average car would use this in 2-3 months)
4100 kilowatts of electricity (average household use per year)
four cubic metres of landfill
31,380 litres of water (roughly a household's annual water use)
That's significant. But if you are choosing recycled loo paper, be sure to pick one that doesn't use chlorine bleach. Before being pulped and processed, recycled paper is de-inked. Chlorine can be used for this. Chlorine-based chemicals however can react with paper fibres and create toxic compounds such as dioxin and organochlorines.
What toilet paper should I use then?
More and more sources of eco-loo paper are becoming available. New small ethical subscriber-based companies are starting up supplying homes with bulk orders of toilet paper made from non-chlorine bleached recycled paper or bamboo and sugarcane paper (the softer option for sensitive bottoms). Bamboo grows so much faster than trees! There's also people exploring fibre crops, such as hemp, and abundant agricultural and industrial byproducts ranging from wheat straw to garment scraps, sunflower stalks, and rags - all logical sources of tree-free pulp.
How many trees are there in the world?
As an aside, while I was writing this, I came across a research paper that showed the planet has 3.04 trillion trees - or approximately 422 trees per person. This information was published last year in the journal Nature and based on research conducted at Yale. The research also says that 15.3 billion trees are chopped down every year - with the highest losses in the tropics where some of the oldest and biggest trees live. It also estimates that almost half of the world's trees have been cleared already. This has significant implications for the planet in terms of climate change, biodiversity, and therefore also human well-being.
Let's think before we wipe and go tree-free! If you don't already use it why not give the paper made from sustainable, renewable resources a go.
Here's some of the sites I visited while writing this tonight.