The COVID pandemic allowed us to recognize many things in life we had undervalued, even the ability to purchase toilet paper.
Why was toilet paper so hard to find?
According to a 2018 Statista study, the average American uses a whopping 141 rolls of toilet paper per year, more than someone living in any other country in the world.
During normal, non-pandemic times, many of us spend time away from home — at work, school, traveling, shopping — and we use public restrooms and their toilet paper. In fact, about 40% of the toilet paper sold in the U.S. is for commercial use. So, as more people were asked to stay home to stay healthy, there was a resulting 40% increase in residential toilet paper use and sales, and manufacturers needed time to shift to making and shipping more toilet paper for home use. With the increased demand and a bit of panic-hoarding, it was no wonder that toilet paper was hard to find.
What is the situation now?
Currently, the supply for residential-use toilet paper is, for the most part, keeping up with the demand. However, the pandemic has brought to light the fact that we Americans use an awful lot of tissue, which industry experts define as toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissue, napkins, and wrapping tissue. In the United States, most tissue products are made from wood pulp taken from virgin softwood and hardwood trees, made from recycled paper, or produced with a combination of both. Because of economics, as well as federal and state purchasing guidelines, most businesses and institutions purchase recycled-content tissue paper products, including toilet paper.
How can I help the environment by changing my toilet paper?
Almost all toilet paper sold for at-home use is made with wood pulp from 100% virgin hardwood and softwood trees, which means it contains no recycled paper. For something that we use once and then flush away, we might want to consider one or more of these changes in our homes:
• Use only the amount of toilet paper you need for proper hygiene, and no more. This saves money, too.
• Buy recycled-content toilet paper. Read the label and look for the terms “contains recycled content” or “contains post-consumer content.” Try out various recycled-content brands to find ones that meet your budget, strength, and softness needs. Recycled-content tissue products help support markets for recycled paper. Search online for “recycled toilet paper” for online ordering or subscription home delivery options.
• Consider alternatives to tree-based toilet paper. Bamboo toilet paper or washable, reusable cloths are worth investigating. Look into whether retrofitting your toilet with a bidet makes sense for your family. More about alternatives to standard toilet paper can be found by reading, 8 Zero Waste & Sustainable Toilet Paper Alternatives.
Come back and check out next week’s blog post for Part 2 of “Wiped Out.”
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