Did you know that we use 127 toilet paper rolls per person and year? Although only 30% of our population uses toilet paper on a regular basis. And that is a €30 billion yearly market.
This caught our attention.
But then we thought that everyone was surely doing its best to be conscious to the environmental impacts of this massive product category. We all seen the lovely ads of a happy sheep jumping up and down on a soft toilet paper.
Money goes first and it turned out that the toilet paper industry is one of the badest industries of everyday items around. For the environment, but also for peoples health.
Lets’s start with the industry aspect.
A study from Ethical Consumer magazine found that major brands were using less recycled paper than in 2011, while only five of the nine major supermarkets in the UK, offered an own-brand recycled toilet paper.
The large-scale use of virgin paper contributes to unnecessary and extensive deforestation. The study singles out Kimberly-Clark, one of the biggest James Bond thieves. The proportion of recycled wood pulp used by the company has fallen over the years. In 2011, just under 30% of the total fibre used was recycled, but by 2017 this figure had fallen to 23.5% and for 2019 it will be below 20%.
Most toilet rolls use the FSC Mix mark. We have all seen the logos. An FSC mark means the paper is made from a mix of FSC virgin wood, recycled, and virgin wood from “controlled sources”. These are not fully certified FSC forests but are considered “low risk”, whatever that means. And “controlled sources” is as you presumably understand a wage term with no further explanations to get.
But how do you make regular pulp toilet paper?
To make paper old-growth forests that are cut down, the water wasted to clean and prepare the pulp, and the energy costs of manufacture and transportation. A variety of chemicals are also involved in the manufacturing process, contributing to toilet paper’s negative environmental impact. Chlorine bleaches the pulp white and makes toilet paper feel softer. It also severely pollutes local water sources.
Here are the facts that made us do the move into the industry:
Our sourcing team travelled by a speed train from Hong Kong to mainland China to locate a potential bamboo paper factory. In some cliques does China has an unfairly bad reputation of production.
Many factories are to the opposite reputation instead modern, efficient and in mainland China does the bamboo grow naturally. That was a critical factor.
The Toilet Paper Factory is located in Guizhou, Chishui City. The border mountains of Guizhou have been identified as one of the eight plant diversity hotspots in China. The main ecosystem types include evergreen broad-leaved forest, coniferous and broad-leaved mixed forest, and montane elfin forest. And loads of bamboo that are not growing in recently deforested lands. It has grown there for thousands of years.
The strongest guarantee that the bamboo is sourced sustainably is that it has been certified by the FSC. The FSC Bamboo mark not only ensures environmental sustainability, but it also promotes the core conventions of the International Labour Organisation, meaning that vital workers’ rights are upheld.
So that was a box to tick as well.
The process of making toilet paper from bamboo is fairly straight forward. Bamboo trees are turned into pulp and then pressed into the paper on massive rolls. These are later divided into small rolls. No usage of bleach and the wastewater is taken care of in a closed-loop system.
We did two major innovations with A Good Toilet Paper:
The Toilet Paper Factory was founded in 2001. It has 61 employees working under living wage conditions. It is a family business and we last met in May 2019.