Increasing demand for toilet paper wipes out forests

The demand for toilet paper has threatened forests worldwide, and has increased since the pandemic.

Jamar Kittling '20

The demand for toilet paper has threatened forests worldwide, and has increased since the pandemic.

Lucas Chow, Staff Reporter

To have or not to have fluffy toilet paper? That is the question. According to green campaign researchers, society’s affection for delicate, soft, and cloud-like bathroom toilet paper has led to a substantial negative impact on the environment. 

While an increasing number of organizations and companies are going paperless, less reusable paper resources are incorporated into the generation of bathroom tissue because of consumer demand for high-quality ultra- soft, thick and fluffy toilet paper.

Thus, pulp manufacturing is expanding, requiring the increased utilization of virgin wood –untreated pulp from forest trees–to manufacture fluffy toilet paper. It has been estimated that Americans use an average of 7 billion rolls of toilet paper a year.

In addition, a typical tree provides about 1,000 rolls of toilet paper, translating to the deforestation of 7 million trees just for maintaining our high standards of bathroom hygiene.

This has created the call to decrease deforestation to protect trees and their delicate ecosystems. Other than providing wildlife a thriving habitat, trees are one of the Earth’s most important consumers of carbon dioxide. Together, the forests store more energy than any other terrestrial ecosystem.

When many trees are cut, the land generates heat, leading to increased production of carbon dioxide levels, causing global warming. Also, trees are a great source of oxygen. On average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Thus, widespread deforestation causes a decrease in oxygen, which would negatively affect the ecosystem and the environment.

Johnnie Pena Muir ‘23 stated, “I would prefer fluffy toilet paper, but if it came down to a choice in saving the environment, I would choose recycled toilet paper because using fluffy toilet paper causes more trees to be cut down.”

Another student, Joseph Zuloaga ‘23, expressed a similar opinion: “I’m down for both, but overall, I would use fluffy toilet paper because of its texture. If the number of trees became relatively limited, then I would use recycled toilet paper.”

would prefer fluffy toilet paper, but if it came down to a choice in saving the environment, I would choose recycled toilet paper because using fluffy toilet paper causes more trees to be cut down.”

— Johnnie Pena-Muir '23

In comparison, Michael Hickam, a biology teacher, stated, “I myself would prefer recycled toilet paper because it’s better for the environment.”

So, what is an environmentally conscious consumer to do? One choice is to buy toilet tissue made from recycled paper. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that if every household in the United States replaced a single roll of virgin fiber toilet paper with a roll from 100 percent recycled paper, the wood saved would add up to 423,900 trees.

The drawback is that recycled paper yields shorter fibers than virgin wood, making toilet paper feel coarser and less fluffy. Recycled toilet paper is also less costly. For example, on Amazon, the cost of Cottonelle fluffy toilet paper is 41 cents per 100 sheets compared to 12 cents per 100 sheets for the Scott Recycled Fiber toilet paper.

Another option to protect the environment is by donating to TeamTrees.org where $1 donation leads to the planting of a tree.

At the beginning of shelter- in-place orders because of the coronavirus pandemic, consumers started to hoard toilet paper, leaving store shelves bare. In March, Bloomberg reported, “Georgia-Pacific has increased shipments of its Quilted Northern and Angel Soft brands by about 120 percent above its normal capacity, according to company spokesman Eric Abercrombie.”

In addition, “Procter & Gamble Co. will make as much Charmin as Americans think they’ll need, said Rick McLeod, vice president of product supply for the company’s family care unit.”

And, “Kimberly-Clark Inc. said its Scott brand will remain plentiful and that the company is both accelerating production and reallocating inventory to meet demand.”

Bloomberg also reported, “Nielsen data shows sales rose 60 percent in the week ending March 7 — has led to higher retail prices.” For individual health, and that of the global community, environmentalists recommend consumers consider switching from fluffy toilet paper to other options such as recycled toilet paper.