Some people might be interested in switching to recycled or bamboo toilet paper from regular toilet paper, but don’t know what the key differences are.
Summary – Regular vs Recycled vs Bamboo Toilet Paper Comparison
In terms of eco friendliness, 100% post consumer recycled toilet paper is probably best (or 100% pre consumer recycled toilet paper – made from wood chips, wood off cuts, and so on).
This is followed closely by bamboo (or it can even be equal with recycled), and regular toilet paper usually follows behind both of them (but, some regular toilet paper made with sustainably sourced and more eco friendly methods can jump up the rankings)
In terms of softness, regular and bamboo might be softest, followed by recycled (although some recycled can be soft).
In terms of strength, thick or triple ply regular TP and bamboo might be strongest, followed by recycled
Price is dependent on the brand and product, but regular TP is usually cheapest, with some very cost competitive bamboo and recycled toilet papers on the market as well.
– Regular toilet paper usually comes from virgin trees grown and cut on a plantation (that may or may not have a sustainable certification), that is then made into a paper pulp with chemicals, and then perforated, bleached, dyed and scented.
It usually comes with plastic packaging.
– Recycled toilet paper can be 100% recycled with home and office paper, or partially recycled (say 40 or 50% recycled, and the rest regular).
It can be made from pre or post consumer recycled paper sources. It may or may not come whitened with bleach.
Recycled TP still requires resources to break down the recycled paper, make a recycled paper pulp, and make the final roll.
It can come with recycled paper packaging.
– Bamboo toilet paper comes from bamboo plants usually grown in China, and sometimes sugar cane too.
The chemical mix used to make the bamboo pulp is different to the chemical mix used to make bamboo textiles.
Bamboo is usually more eco friendly than using virgin wood trees (as bamboo grows fast, uses little land, and doesn’t need fertilizer or pesticide).
Bamboo toilet paper may or may not be bleached.
The packaging can be paper or plastic.
The above are general guidelines.
There are different brands and products of each type of TP on the market.
Ultimately, the final set of differences is dependent on how the individual companies make their products, in terms of their processes and what they include in their products (each TP product and brand is different – so do your research beforehand)
A lifecycle assessment on a particular TP product compared to another can help as well.
Which one is best might come down to your personal preference.
One thing we would say is that some companies offer a money back guarantee with their toilet paper (especially the bamboo and recycled TP products), so you might look for this if trying a new type for the first time.
Also, note the general consideration that has to be made between landfill, recycling, incineration and composting of different wastes, and which waste management method might be best.
Regular Toilet Paper
A few common features might be:
Can be made from managed tree forests owned specifically for harvesting wood for paper products
Can also be made from sustainably managed tree forests that meet national sustainable certification for environmental and social standards
Usually use water, energy and land to grow, cut and process trees
May or may not plant a tree for every tree cut down
Usually bleached (for whitening), inked/dyed, and scented
Can be thin or thick ply
Usually quite soft
Usually cost competitive
Usually comes in plastic packaging
Recycled Toilet Paper
A few common features might be:
Can be made of 100% recycled, or partially recycled paper mix
Can be pre consumer or post consumer paper
Pre consumer recycled paper can include off cuts from timber and wood chips (and other sources and types of wood)
Post consumer recycled paper can include office paper and other types of already used paper
The recycling process still involves chemicals and energy to break down and mix the recycled paper together. It also sometimes involves chemicals for some whitening and inking/dying
Some recycled paper is bleached for whitening whilst others aren’t
Can come with plastic or recycled paper packaging
Usually the most eco friendly option if it’s 100% recycled post consumer toilet paper with no plastic packaging (uses recycled paper packaging instead)
Sometimes not as soft or strong as regular or bamboo toilet paper
Choosing recycled toilet paper also saves energy, since the production of paper and cardboard products made from recycled paper uses 50 per cent less energy and 90 per cent less water than making them from raw materials
Bamboo Toilet Paper
A few common features might be:
Material is sourced from bamboo plants (and sometimes sugarcane as well) usually grown in China (but some can come from different countries)
Bamboo is more sustainable than trees as it grows fast, uses land efficiently, and doesn’t use fertilizer or pesticides. It can also be water efficient depending on the climate
Still requires chemicals to break the fibres down into a pulp to make paper, but it’s usually not the same chemical mix used for bamboo textiles
Bamboo toilet paper may or may not be bleached. It may or may not be inked and scented
Bamboo toilet paper is usually just behind, or equal with recycled paper for eco friendliness
Bamboo toilet paper is usually as soft and strong as regular toilet paper
Can come with paper or plastic packaging
Bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world with record speeds of 1.2 metres in growth per day.
Bamboo can grow to its maximum height in only 4 months in comparison to up to 30 years for trees.
Another fun fact about bamboo is that the more it is cut, the more it grows
Some Stats On Toilet Paper Usage & Consumption In Different Countries & Worldwide
The vast majority of toilet paper in the U.S. is made from the pulp of virgin trees.
Yes, we’re cutting down trees for all those toilet paper rolls (toilet paper production consumes 27,000 trees daily).
The good news is that 1 tree can provide 100 lbs of toilet paper.
It’s also nice to know that trees are a renewable resource and most American companies are replanting trees after they’ve taken full grown trees.
If every household replaced their 300 sheet virgin fiber toilet paper with 100% recycled product, America could save 630,000 trees per year [quoting Seventh Generation]
The average American uses nearly 21,000 sheets of toilet paper a year—roughly the length of 23 football fields
The average American uses over 100 single rolls—about 21,000 sheets
According to the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) every tonne of paper recycled saves 13 trees, 2.5 barrels of oil, 4100 kilowatts of electricity, four cubic metres of landfill and 31,380 litres of water. ‘Only five percent of the toilet paper we flush away in Australia is made from recycled paper … The rest is virgin fibre from plantation or native-forest trees
Worldwide, the equivalent of almost 270,000 trees is either flushed or dumped in landfills every day and roughly 10 percent of that total is attributable to toilet paper
[the average person] uses approximately 1 – 2 rolls of toilet paper per week.
That means 1 person uses about 100 rolls per year.
1 pine tree can produce 2000 rolls or enough toilet paper for 20 people per year.
In 2015, Australia had an estimated population of 23.9 million people.
11,950 trees will be sacrificed for Australians on a yearly basis
The average American uses 57 squares of toilet paper a day, adding up to 50 pounds of the stuff each year
In America, 98% of toilet roll sold come from virgin woods due to the country’s insistence on having extra-soft, quilted, multiply.
ONE tree makes about 1,000 rolls of toilet paper
Americans use an average of 7 billion rolls per year (twice as much as Europeans, because that’s the way Americans be)… so that’s 7 million trees per year being chopped for America
Toilet tissue accounts for approximately 15% of our world’s deforestation
It is estimated that 270,000 trees are chopped down every single day just to make paper.
Making recycled paper consumes less water and energy and creates less air pollution and water pollution than making paper from timber.
Many trees used for tissue products do grow on tree farms, and lumber by-products such as wood chips may be reclaimed for tissue.
But some trees from old-growth forests still end up in a product we use for five seconds and then flush down the toilet.
… global toilet paper production wipes out about 27,000 trees per day, which comes out to almost 9 million trees per year.
As the New York Times reported in 2009, the eucalyptus tree, one of the most common sources for toilet paper, can produce up to 1,000 rolls; on average, Americans use 23.6 rolls per person per year.
Following through on the math, that means our nation of nearly 319 million sacrifices about 7.5 million trees per year to wipe our nether regions.
Other estimates are higher … in 2009 that the number is closer to 15 million trees … other sources say it was 54 million
Fluffy toilet paper can be the worst – Millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada.
Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them.
… the creation of toilet paper requires quite a bit of water; Bill Worrell contends that each roll drinks up around 37 gallons of water.
Moreover, many brands use bleach to whiten the appearance of their toilet paper.
While standards have vastly improved since 1990, when the Environmental Protection Agency instituted stricter guidelines for the bleaching process, it’s not foolproof
[Recycled TP is better environmentally than regular toilet paper – but, it’s usually not as soft or fluffy because the fibers are shorter]
An Asterisk On Switching From Regular Toilet Paper To Recycled Or Bamboo Toilet Paper
Regular toilet paper in developed countries usually isn’t directly responsible for deforestation of native trees or the most biodiverse rain forests.
It usually comes from either sawdust and offcuts of timber that was being used for other purposes, or huge monoculture plantations of pulpwood soft wood and hardwood trees grown specifically for wood resources.
On top of this, some regular toilet paper products are sustainable forest certified.
So, some claims made by some environmentalists can be inaccurate.
This is illustrated by this quote by mnn.com:
“If every household in the U.S. replaced just one roll of 500 sheet virgin fiber bathroom tissue with 100 percent recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees.”
That sounds good. And it would be true, too — if lumberjacks were marching into natural forests with the sole purpose of hauling trees to the Charmin factory.
In practice, things aren’t that simple.
Most tissue-grade paper is made from sawdust and leftover scraps of timber cut for other purposes.
And while there are some outrageous exceptions, the trees come from vast stands of pulpwood forests, harvested like the vegetables