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Can toilet paper ever be environmentally friendly?

According to the Confederation of Paper Industries, 1.3 million tonnes of tissue is used in the UK every year, with 1.1 million of it being imported into the UK.

How many trees does it take to make 1 ton of paper?

According to data from the Global Forest Resource Assessment roughly 80,000 to 160,000 trees are cut down each day around the world with a significant percentage being used in the paper industry. WWF in an article ‘Price of Toilet Paper for the planet’ say that the amount of wood harvested annually may need to triple by 2050 to meet projected global demands for all industries—including pulp and paper.

Why are Trees Good for the Planet?
Trees absorb CO2. They need it to grow. In return, they release oxygen which helps us breathe. Talk about a win-win scenario.

Only 30% of the world’s population uses toilet roll
Alex Crumbie researcher for Ethical Consumer which did research into ethical toilet paper in 2019 said: “Only around 30% of the world’s population uses toilet roll,” Crumbie added, “so we know that there are lots of perfectly hygienic alternatives to using paper-based products. It’s important we consider what we’re using to wipe our behinds with, because at the moment our precious planet is getting a bum deal.”

The Ethical Consumer report said that when buying toilet paper you should consider these questions:

  • Is it Recycled?
  • Is it made from recycled fibre
  • Is packaging recycled?

If it carries the label FSC Mix it will have been made using virgin wood pulp. There is no need to cut down forests to make toilet roll.

In 2005 Duncan Pollard, Head of WWF’s European Forest Programme said:

“Everyday about 270,000 trees are effectively flushed down the toilet or end up as garbage around the world, such a use of the forests is both wasteful and unnecessary.”

So, what are the alternatives?


Is it time for the bidet to make a comeback in the UK? The woman who started reusable period pants in the US invented the Tushy – an attachable bidet spray for the toilet. In the UK similar attachments to the toilet are sold as Japanese toilets – see a range here

While you may need to use a small amount of tissue paper to dry, you will use MUCH less paper.

Bamboo and Recycled toilet paper and tissues.

Bamboo is more sustainable because it grows much more quickly, it regenerates itself, and it doesn’t contribute to deforestation. Plus, it absorbs up to 35% more carbon than similar plants.

Bamboo toilet paper is becoming more mainstream, too, meaning you can shop around to find the best deal.

Who Gives a Crap

You can find recycled and bamboo toilet paper from  Who Gives A Crap (An Australian company so you have to consider the environmental issues of transporting it to other countries) .
They give half their profits to: non-profit organisations working to improve access to hygiene, water and basic sanitation in developing countries.

Cheeky Panda

Chinese grown organic bamboo – the company uses carbon offsetting to offset emissions used in manufacture and transport from China to Felixstowe by sea.
Cheeky Panda’s statement on carbon offsetting says: To offset the carbon used in the production and transportation of our bamboo tissue produce we work with the World Land Trust to fund planting forest on Vietnam which completely offsets all emissions.

Sainsbury Recycled Toilet Paper

This is  UK produced @FSC certified which means: When you see the FSC logo on a label, you can buy forest products with confidence that you are helping to ensure our forests are alive for generations to come.

 Waitrose ECOlogical Toilet Paper

‘Made entirely from recycled paper. Our recycled toilet tissues start with recycled magazines, packaging and office waste. The wastepaper is sorted and only the best quality materials delivered to a UK mill. Next the paper is washed with water and printed ink; plastic and staples are removed. The cleaned paper pulp is pressed, hot air dried and rolled into ‘reels’. Excess water is re-used within the factory. Finally, the paper ‘logs’ are cut into individual toilet rolls, and packed ready for delivery to our stores.’

 Ecoleaf Recycled Toilet Paper

This is widely available online– the company makes recycled toilet roll with compostable packaging. We cannot find any indication that this is a UK company (let us know if you know more?) : Ecoleaf appears to be based in Dubai but their sellers say the product is manufactured in the UK.

‘In 1986 we launched the UK’s first 100% Recycled Paper Toilet Tissue, since then we’ve continued to develop the range.  All ecoleaf paper products are made from 100% recycled fibre sourced exclusively within the UK. Manufactured from 60%+ post-consumer waste supply streams, collected by local authorities, kerb side collections and bona fide waste merchants. The remaining waste fibre is made up from UK manufacturers’ waste such as printers’ trim and greeting card manufacturers’ waste. No chlorine-based chemistry is used in the production process. Sourced and then manufactured in the UK, every effort is made to maximise loads and minimise road miles. Bleach free.’


Some people are using reusable washable cloth wipes – an option that doesn’t’ generate too much enthusiasm – but it is an eco option.

Wet Wipes

Please don’t unless there are medical reasons. These are mainly created with plastic. When biodegradable – they are no less wasteful than toilet paper.

 So, what’s the best alternative to toilet paper?

So, while it is still not clear which alternative is likely to become the UK’s ‘go-to’ option, it seems likely that you are better using recycled or bamboo paper, rather than paper direct from virgin trees. Absolutely don’t buy toilet paper with the words FSC Mix on it – this means it comes from virgin trees.

And, if you’re re-designing your bathroom – perhaps consider installing a bidet or bidet attachment to your toilet.

Meanwhile the world is going mad to plant more trees – perhaps we should also put some energy into reflecting why and how we continue to waste this precious resource.

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