Toilet paper is a product that is rarely considered when it comes to the environmental impact of single-use products. Significant progress has been made when it comes to reducing the amount of single-use plastic that we consume, following 2019’s Glastonbury Festival banning plastic bottles and plastic straws being replaced in the majority of UK restaurants and cafes, yet this has taken the focus off of the damage that our bathroom products could be doing.
Only five of the nine major British supermarkets sell recycled toilet roll, with many major brands slowing down or stopping their production of recycled paper as a result of the attention on plastics. The growing preference for luxury toilet roll means that leading brands are sacrificing environmental concerns by using virgin pulp instead of recycled materials in an effort to create the softest paper possible. This is contributing to unnecessary deforestation and the destruction of many species’ natural habitats.
The UK uses 1.3 million tonnes of tissue each year, according to the Confederation of Paper Industries, with the average British consumer getting through approximately 127 rolls of toilet paper per year, working out at more than 2.4 rolls per week. The problem with toilet roll is not only that it is a single-use paper product, but also that the whole process of its manufacture is highly wasteful, involving cutting down forests, using vast amounts of water to clean the pulp and further costs for its transportation. All of these factors contribute to the differences between using recycled paper and new toilet paper working out at a cost of 400 million trees, 660 million tonnes of water and 45 million tonnes of oil.
Aston spoke to Chris Forbes, founder of the cheeky panda to discuss what impact our toilet habits have on the environment.