The voracious use of toilet paper in the United States — with the average American using almost three rolls each week and major manufacturers spurning alternative fibres — is destroying Canada’s forests and causing widespread environmental damage, two international environmental groups say.
A report on tissue paper use gave failing grades to the leading toilet paper, tissue and paper towel brands for using only virgin fibre pulp, mostly from Canada’s old boreal forests.
“Forests are too vital to flush away,” says the report, called The Issue With Tissue, released Wednesday by Natural Resources Defense Council and Stand.earth, international nonprofit environmental organizations that cooperated on the study.
The report hammered the three biggest tissue producers in the U.S. — Procter & Gamble, Georgia-Pacific, and Kimberly-Clark — over their big, recognizable brands such as Charmin, Cottonelle, Brawny, Bounty, Kleenex, Angel Soft, Quilted Northern and Viva.
The report also unrolls the incredible toilet paper use by consumers in the U.S., noting that just 150 years ago Americans used corncobs to clean up, but have since been drummed by marketing campaigns to demand the softest tissue they can get, which comes from Canada’s softwood.
The U.S. consumes more toilet paper than any other country, almost three rolls per person each week. The U.S. is followed by Germany and Britain in annual toilet paper consumption. They far out-pace the other nations. Canada isn’t in the top 10.
It’s created an industry absorbing $31 billion in revenue every year in the U.S, the report says.
Compounding the environmental concerns is that all of those trees turned into pulp and made into tissue are then flushed down the toilet without recycling diversion.
The report calls that a “tree-to-toilet pipeline.”
Rampant use of virgin pulp tissue is threatening the way of life for Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, causing large environmental damage, endangering wildlife and contributing to climate change, the report says: “Tissue products made from virgin fibre pulp, which comes from trees, are a clear threat to our climate.”
“When the boreal and other forests are degraded, their capacity to absorb man-made greenhouse gas emissions declines. In addition, the carbon that had been safely stored in the forests’ soil and vegetation is released into the atmosphere, dramatically undermining international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
“None of their flagship at-home brands contain recycled materials or alternative fibres, and each company misses other key commitments necessary to ensure their products do not come at the expense of the
The organizations are calling for alternative content, including recycled wood pulp, wheat straw and bamboo.
Big Tissue defended its practices.
Damon Jones, vice president, global communications at Procter & Gamble said consumers demand soft, absorbent tissue.
“We know that virgin fibre in tissue products is significantly preferred by consumers, and ‘does the job’ much more efficiently than recycled or non-wood products,” Jones said. He said P&G’s products, including its packaging and inner cores, use sustainable sourced or recycled content and its wood fibre comes from responsibly managed forests.
Similarly, Georgia-Pacific said softness and absorbency are what consumers want and that is best accommodated with virgin pulp. The company “takes steps to ensure that we are responsibly sourcing wood and wood fibre for our pulp, paper and wood products operations,” a spokeswoman said.
Kimberly-Clark said it plans to cut virgin pulp content in half by 2025. At the same time, spokesman Terry Balluck said, the company will increase “use of low-impact alternative and recycled fibres where credible analysis indicates that they are environmentally and socially preferable to other virgin fibre sources and do not lead to loss of necessary food crops or high conservation value ecosystems.”