Toilet Paper (from trees) is back in the Headlines. ‘Is Wiping our Bottoms Wiping out Forests?’

Back’side’ to the Future | Trees or Bamboo?

Toilet Paper: It’s not (as the panic buying highlighted) about shortage. It’s about sustainability.

When you wipe your bottom you may be unintentionally wiping out forests. In last week’s post we wrote about supporting renewable energy that protects our world. The focus was on Biogas as a sustainable energy source, using cattle poop mixed with food waste as the basis of our article. However, fortunately cows don’t use toilet paper/tissue as do such an increasing percentage of the human race. The reason we mention it is the world’s biggest manufacturers use a lot of trees and a lot of water to make toilet tissue. We’ve all been made aware of, and many countries are beginning to react about, the destructive use of plastics which are proven to be damaging to both land and sea. But, why would we necessarily think that toilet tissue, ‘That flush-away daily cleanser we simply pop in the toilet and it disappears,‘ would be anything for us to be remotely concerned about?

Meanwhile, the Amazon burns and Forests are being cut down at an Alarming Rate. The really important issue here (rather than the recent occurrence of toilet paper panic buying) as WHO recently pointed out, is ‘The world has lost 178 million hectares of forest since 1990.’ That’s seven times the area of the UK! With that staggering statistic in mind – add to that how much devastation can be historically, and presently, aligned to cutting down trees for toilet paper production (let alone the amount of water and chemicals used in the process.) We can clearly see that we have reached a crisis point in regards to the impact on our forests, the amazon and our planet. This leads us onto the introduction (if you’d not heard of them already) to an organisation that is kicking up about the use of trees for TP [toilet paper] and we wanted to give that some publicity and their findings an airing…

Trees or Bamboo… and gallons of water too! In this brief article we have no intention of sending you to sleep with reams of information, facts and figures, but we wanted to flag up a few things that may be of interest, or an influence on your choice of which toilet tissue and certain other products to use [e.g. kitchen towel, face tissues, and even wet wipes.] As a comparison, let’s take a quick look at the key ‘need to knows‘ regarding toilet paper/tissue and the advantages of bamboo for sustainability and similarly the environment. We’re focussing on ‘Bamboo vs Trees.’ But in regard to their importance on earth – Trees are essential for our planet and exactly why they have to be saved and protected, not used for toilet paper. Trees are vital, as the biggest plants on the planet they give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife.

‘Bamboo instead of Trees for Balanced Sustainability. The Benefits.’ Bamboo is a very fast growing, renewable and an easy-to-grow resource. It is an extremely versatile material with countless uses, including; construction, clothes, food and fuel. Bamboo shoots are used in Asian food preparations and in Japan, the antioxidant properties of bamboo skin can prevent bacterial growth and are used as natural food preservatives. Bamboo is well-known for being a Panda’s favourite meal. No fertiliser, pesticides, or herbicides are needed for them to grow, as unlike most crops bamboo requires no agricultural chemicals to thrive. Bamboo absorbs carbon dioxide and releases 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere, more than a similar community of trees. The list is endless and the more we learn about bamboo it’s obvious as to why, ‘it’s a true miracle of nature.

The Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC] are moving and shaking regarding TP from trees, as it’s not on most peoples radar or list of priorities, but ought to be. A number of you in the know may be following Shelley Vinyard from the NRDC, a campaign expert who has written many articles on the subject of boreal forests. Shelley provides a clear and well-researched view. For further reading, and to expand on the focal points we’ve made above, here are a few sources of useful information from NRDC to check out: ‘All Your Questions About Toilet Paper Answered‘ from June 24 2020, ‘The Issue with Tissue.’ Another useful resource is Mongabay who frequently comment on deforestation with their, ‘News and Inspiration from Nature’s Frontline.’

Is Bamboo the New You? or ‘What’s the most climate-friendly tissue paper for you and our planet.’ By way of an introduction. To find out about the hottest new influencers in the world of bamboo toilet tissue and our more eco-friendly household products + where you can buy them – here’s a list of links to just a few of the many game-changers (in no particular order) to get you started. Each offering alternates to TP from Trees [availability of brand may depend on your location]:

The Cheeky PandaWho Gives a CrapBumbooCabooNo. 2ReelTushyBim Bam BooPurePlanetClubSilknSoft

We’ll leave you with a few last thoughts to ensure we protect this precious asset. ‘How can we harvest bamboo in sustainable ways to save the bamboo eco-system, to plan not only a scientific but also a holistic approach to bamboo cultivation? Also, the impact of industry on the biodiversity, local peoples lives and those animals for whom it’s their home? These questions are crucial if we are to build a sustainable future and long-term access to Bamboo, an important resource but that, in harvesting it, we don’t destroy it as a habitat, or ignore its value as continuing climate change reboots the natural order.‘ This is a subject we’re going to return to, if you have any comments or want to tell us about your experience with bamboo and or sustainable toilet paper please get in touch. We’ll be back next week…

Comment on our article 24th April 2020, from marine biologist Professor Richard Thompson OBE

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote a post about the 3Ps in ‘Turn your toilet paper into a wet wipe + other news & views on loos & no. 2s‘ and potential ways to help the environment by not putting anything other than Poop, Pee and Paper (toilet paper) in the loo… We asked one of the world’s leading experts, Professor Richard Thompson, for his opinion and he kindly responded having said ‘the article made good sense.’ His comments can be seen below:

“The bottom line is we all need to work toward consuming less stuff. It is especially important to  minimise any single use items where the benefit is very transitory  –  but the persistence as waste is long-lived. That’s the issue with wipes. The move toward a fine to flush logo might make sense. However, its potentially confusing for consumers if some wipes are OK to flush and others not. Perhaps the simplest message is  the 3Ps –  only flush pee, poo and paper. The idea of a spray to modify conventional paper is an interesting one and  may have merit.  I hope the containers are fully compatible with  a circular economy.

To me the key thing in all of this is the need for  product designers to fully consider end of life scenarios for their products right from the design stage; and where necessary have necessary testing done  to evaluate those outcomes before a product goes to market. Many of the current challenges relating to plastics could be avoided with  a little more thought at the design stage.Professor Richard Thompson OBE FRS

Professor Thompson is Director of the Marine Institute School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering) and leads the International Marine Litter Research Unit. Professor Thompson coined the termmicroplasticsin 2004. With thanks for his remarks and advice.

Listen to this fascinating and enlightening podcast with Professor Thompson on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Life Scientific [listen now or download.] ‘How did you first get interested in the problem of plastic pollution in the sea?’ Richard Thompson tells Jim Al-Khalili how he alerted the world to the micro-plastics in the ocean and the harm they might cause to marine life.

When the rest of the world was waking up to the harm caused to marine life by larger plastic items, such as plastic bags, Professor Richard Thompson searched for tiny fragments of plastic, some no bigger than a human hair; and found them in oceans and on beaches all over the world. He has spent decades studying the harm these micro-plastics might cause to marine life and is concerned. His work on plastics in cosmetics led to a UK ban on micro-beads in shower gels and exfoliating scrubs.