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The Dirty Truth About Toilet Paper And Its Environmental Damage

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Toilet paper is sourced from natural materials and is biodegradable, – so it has to be eco-friendly, right?

Well, actually NO!

Toilet paper is far from the innocent product that you think it is and the shocking reality is that producing toilet paper is a 30 Billion pound industry that spends a lot of its cash with one objective in mind.

And that objective is, to prevent the public from discovering the dirty truth about toilet paper and the devastating environmental damage the industry causes.

So what is the real truth about toilet paper and is there an eco-friendly alternative they don’t want you to know about?

The Origin Of Toilet Paper And How It Has Shaped The Views Of Today

We have been wiping our butt with whatever we could get hold of for many years in the western world.

Sticks, stones, grass, leaves, even broken pottery… Ouch!

However, our views on toiletry hygiene have changed with experience and within society over the millennia, and this is especially apparent the further East you travel.

This change is partly due to wealth, status, and opportunity, but primarily it stems from cultural differences.

In Rome, for example, they used a sea sponge that was attached to a stick and stored in a bucket of salt water or vinegar.

This was a significant step up from groveling around on the floor looking for some cleanish-looking straw or the odd large leaf.

Unfortunately, the sponge was also passed around and reused several times, so it was not quite as hygienic as you might think.

If we travel further East, we find that cultures became more tactile and these cultures regularly blessed, prayed, communicated, and ate with their hands, so hand hygiene became more important to them.

This facilitated the evolution from wiping to washing, as eastern cultures came to believe that only through washing can a body be truly clean.

Historical Evidence Of Washing Using Stick And Cloth

There is evidence of this from northwest China, where archaeologists discovered seven so-called hygiene sticks made from bamboo.

These sticks had cloth wrapped around them and were designed to be used for wiping and drying.

In this way, the hands could be far away from the dirty area so personal hygiene could be maintained.

By 1393, rice paper had taken over from the humble cloth on a stick and was being mass-produced for the imperial royal family.

At the time, this may have been classed as toilet paper, but was it only used as drying paper?

At the same time, the West developed ways of eating food with utensils.

This put a different view on personal hygiene; so in the West, toilet paper was viewed as a tool to achieve a specific task.

Here behinds were ravaged by old parchment, manuscripts, newspapers, corn cobs, and other improvised toilet items.

A particular favorite was the multi-page Sears mail-order catalog.

This way of thinking led to the acceptance of wiping as the right and proper way to get the job done.

And so, with the invention of J.C. Gayetty’s Medicated Paper for the Water Closet in 1857, the toilet paper industry was born.

Since then, billions have been invested, and it is not in the manufacturers’ interests to promote alternatives.

However, the stark reality is that those little paper rolls are one of the most costly items in the world.

Not only costly to our wallets but devastatingly costly to entire ecosystems and the world at large.

The Truth About Toilet Paper And The Environment

At the beginning of the article, I said toilet paper was sourced from natural materials and biodegradable.

So it must be eco-friendly, right?

Well, let’s look at that statement a bit more closely.

While toilet paper is made from natural resources, it is vital to understand that the natural resource is wood.

To be more precise, it’s a mixture of approximately 70% hardwood and 30% softwood from virgin trees.

And at present, the toilet paper industry destroys about 15 million trees per year just to satisfy the demands of the American market.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The American market alone devours about 15 million trees per year.

Or in other words, deforestation is happening on a grand scale just so that you can use toilet paper to smear your butt when you defecate.

From an eco-friendly perspective, take a moment to think about the carbon footprint created, greenhouse gasses produced, and habitats destroyed when those majestic trees were felled and removed.

smoke stacks pumping out pollution to make toilet paper
Smoke stacks pumping out pollution to make toilet paper

Then take a moment to imagine the bare and rolling landscape where a vast and thriving ecosystem once stood.

Now do those thoughts make you feel happy and content?

If the answer is no, please do me a favor and read this entire article as you do have the power to change this picture.

The Truth About Toilet Paper And Tree Replacement Programs.

You may have seen some toilet paper companies advertise that they will replant X amount for every tree felled.

Sounds good, does it not?

However, as usual, all is not what it seems.

Unfortunately, the logic of the industry is more focused on economics than ecology.

So the reality is that the industry prefers to plant only one genus of trees to replace a forest where many rare, varied and indigenous genera of trees once stood.

The species they pick is generally the Douglas-fir, which has a fast growth rate and can be harvested in regular industry-timed rotations that can maximize profits.

This is the finer detail that the politicians tend to skim over.

But, again, this is tree farming, not a thriving ecosystem or forest replacement program.

According to John Lennon Campbell, a forest ecologist at Oregon State University, the intensive forest management practices that logged landscapes experience echo what is seen in other factory-farming monocultures.

Logging debris and dead trees are turned into profits before they can become vital parts of the food web through natural decomposition.

Smaller plant species beneath the mighty Douglas-firs, and the animals that depend on them for nourishment, are forced out with the necessary herbicides.

Even more horrifying is that bears and other mammals that might threaten these lucrative saplings are trapped and eventually killed.

And all these living ecosystems are being killed just so that some humans can defecate and smear excrement onto soft paper.

the dirty truth about toilet paper - environment
The dirty truth about toilet paper – chemical pollution into the water environments

And this soft paper is also chemically treated, ready for its recipient to mindlessly flush into the water systems without a second thought or consideration of the environmental impact that it is having.

The Truth About Toilet Paper And Deforestation

Between 1996 and 2015, more than 28 million acres of boreal forest in Canada were logged.

How many more acres have been felled since then?

That’s 28 million acres of one of the world’s largest and oldest boreal forests, and the ecosystem is destroyed forever.

This land was laid bare so that the wood from it can be pulped into a disposable tissue for smearing excrement.

To help you dissect that information let’s look at the estimated yearly figures for resources required to produce toilet paper.

Please be aware that I will just concentrate on the American market here as it will keep the figures in context.

I use America for this as Americans use more toilet paper than the rest of the world.

While making up just 4% of the world population, Americans use 20% of the global production of toilet paper.

So according to Justin Thomas, the editor of the website his analysis shows that per year:

  • Americans use 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper
  • Requiring the pulping of some 15 million trees
  • For this, it requires 473,587,500,000 gallons of water
  • This water also requires 253,000 tons of chlorine for bleaching
  • Plus, the manufacturing process uses about 17.3 terawatts of electricity

For those who like things, a little simpler Lloyd Alter of the website reports this.

The resources required to make a single roll of toilet paper are:

  • 1.5 pounds of wood
  • 37 gallons of water (+ chemicals)
  • 1.3 kilowatt/hours of electricity

The Hidden Environmental Costs Of Toilet Paper

It must also be noted that the resource figures quoted above do not include the significant add-on costs associated with toilet paper.

These costs include the energy and materials used in the packaging, transportation, marketing, storing, and selling of toilet rolls.

smoke pollution
toilet paper transported by truck
water pollution

Furthermore, we have the cleanup costs as toilet paper clogs toilets, pipes, and sewage systems, which in turn puts a significant load onto any treatment works.

In addition to all of that, we have recycled toilet paper.

This is made by mixing several different kinds of used paper and mashing them together.

Unfortunately, both the virgin tree and recycled mashing methods require huge amounts of processing.

However, recycled paper only accounts for 2% of the American market, leaving a staggering 98% for virgin wood deforestation!

This low number could be that the paper that forms recycled toilet paper comes from many sources.

Some of these sources can contain BPA, a potentially toxic endocrine disruptor linked to cancer, heart disease, and infertility.

A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found BPA in many paper products, including 80 of the 99 toilet paper containing samples tested.

The Truth About Toilet Paper And Personal Hygiene

Earlier I made the statement deforestation is happening on a grand scale just so that you can smear your butt when you defecate!

Well, I know that makes me cringe, and it also sounds horrible, but just think about it for a moment.

If you had feces on any visible part of your body, would you just wipe it off with a tissue and be satisfied?

dog waiting for human
The Dirty Truth About Toilet Paper

If your pet defecates on the floor, do you get a tissue and smear it about until it’s barely visible?

Of course not because that would be unhygienic. So why do you do it to yourself just because an advert tells you that you should?

An advert whose only purpose is to make you part with your hard-earned cash, by the way.

And here we reveal the dirty truth about toilet paper.

Toilet paper doesn’t actually clean very well at all!

As I have just demonstrated, – toilet paper does not remove all fecal matter (but it does smear it around).

The fecal residue left behind after wiping then warms which leads to itching and aggressive and excessive wiping, causing numerous health problems.

Which leads me to my next question; why does this fecal matter make us feel soo itchy?

There is no getting around this one, but estimates show that there are nearly 100 billion bacteria per gram of wet stool.

Furthermore, one study found that almost 50% of the bacteria were alive. 

So if you have wiped but can still feel the warm, living bacteria moving around your anus – WOULD YOU NOT WANT TO WIPE MORE AGGRESSIVELY!?

Is it just a cleanliness issue, or are there any health concerns related to excessive wiping?

Potential health problems associated with excessive wiping may include:

medical advice about toilet paper

Anal Fissures – An anal fissure is a tear in the rectum lining and can cause bleeding or pain when pooping. 

Hemorrhoids – Hemorrhoids are swollen veins and tissue in the lower rectum and anus and are more severe than fissures.  

External hemorrhoids – External hemorrhoids happen around the rim and are the ones that are typically irritated from excessive wiping. 

Urinary tract infections – UTIs are usually caused by bacteria from poo entering the urinary tract.

If people wipe from back to front, they pull bacteria from the anus towards the front of the body. 

Women have a shorter urethra than men, which means that bacteria are more likely to reach the bladder or kidneys and cause an infection.

Anal Itching – Anal itching can be caused by fecal buildup, dryness, fissures, and hemorrhoids but can also be a symptom of an allergic reaction.

This reaction could be caused by chemicals in the paper or another source, such as a dietary reaction.

Another thing to note about toilet paper is that not all people wash their hands after visiting the toilet.

Fecal contact through broken toilet paper is a real possibility as the quality of toilet paper varies considerably.

Bidet maker BioRelief reports that almost 80% of all infectious diseases are passed on through human-to-human contact.

Therefore, If you use toilet paper, ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS!!!


So, just what is the fascination with toilet paper? Is wiping superior?

Or have we all been conned by the manufacturers when there is simply a better way of doing things?

The Dirty Truth About Toilet Paper

How The Rest Of The World Gets Clean

There are only two ways to clean your sensitive areas, and those are, to wash or wipe them.

Toilet paper is the wipe method and is favored by the American market.

The washing method is preferred more strongly in the east and comes in the form of bidets.

A bidet works by directing a stream of water to fulfill a similar function to toilet paper.

A full explanation can be found in this post, Bidets, Everything You Need To Know.

And if you want to experiment with a low-cost but effective bidet sprayer you can read my review of the top 6 in the marketplace: 6 Best Handheld Bidet Sprayers Review (Living Without Toilet Paper)

Bidets are common all over Europe, the Middle East, China, and Japan, and they are now gaining popularity in the states.

In Japan, more than 80% of households with two or more people own electronic toilets equipped with bidet functions.

Furthermore, if you head to Asia, you will find bidets are commonplace in many homes, airports, public bathrooms, stadiums, and train stations.

And this is because people here believe that bidets are much more hygienic and sanitary than toilet paper.

After all, when you wash away the fecal matter and then dry, as you would after a shower, you are free of the problems associated with excessive wiping.

So what can you expect to find on a bidet?

Common Bidet Features

  •  Heated seats
  • Adjustable spray temperature. 
  • Remote or side panel control. 
  • Energy-efficient settings. 
  • Adjustable pressure.
  • Heated air dryers.

So as you can see, bidets don’t just blast your bum with a turbojet of freezing water anymore!

Furthermore, in today’s world, most bidets are integrated with toilet seats, which technically makes them washlets.

This negates the space required for another unit in your bathroom and reduces the cost considerably.

Plus, if you don’t want either of these options, there are small handheld bidet sprayers you can link to your toilet.

And for your comfort, the water spraying pressure on a bidet sprayer is fully adjustable depending on how far down you press the trigger. 

Is A Bidet Better For The Environment And More Hygenic

When you wash rather than wipe, you increase your cleanliness and reduce the risk of irritations and painful conditions.

In fact, many people report that once they started using a bidet, they no longer experienced any irritations at all.

And installing one in your bathroom can prove to be very beneficial for all family members, especially the elderly, young children, and people with mobility issues.

Imagine the pleasant feeling of using a fully controllable high-pressure spray to immediately clean everything off, with no reach around and no doubts about the effectiveness of the clean.

And who doesn’t want the dignity of a self-clean combined with the security of a fecal-free bottom?

For more information would you please read:-

Bidet Sprayers: Everything You Need To Know In 27 FAQs

How Owning A Bidet Can Reduce Deforestation & Save You Money

6 Best Handheld Bidet Sprayers Review (Living Without Toilet Paper)

14 Eco-Friendly Ways To Clean A Toilet? Simply Amazing


Toilet paper is big business, with Americans alone spending about $8 billion a year on the soft stuff.

However, the cost to the environment is far greater.

And the loss of entire ecosystems just so that we can wipe our butts is unforgivable.

The dirty truth about toilet paper is that we are all conned into buying it, and it is not fit for the purpose.

Even the tree replacement programs come with a hidden catch.

Yes, the tree is replaced with another; however, it’s generally not of the same species.

And it is no longer in a naturally thriving and diverse ecosystem that benefits the planet.

However, washing your butt is good for both your health and the health of the environment.

So now is the perfect time to make the switch from wiping to washing.

And for those of you worried about the water costs… 

Bidets only use about 1/8th of a gallon of water per usage compared with 1.5 gallons per average flush.

Now, add that to an 80% drop in toilet paper purchasing, and you are laughing all the way to the bank!

By the way, if you dry yourself with small and washable eco-friendly flannel or cloth, you can make a 100% saving on toilet paper!


Say NO to toilet paper.

Buy a bidet.

Save a few ecosystems.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Preserve resources.

And stop the smear!

If you liked this article, you might also like to read:

How to reduce your carbon footprint by 80% with ease.

17 Inspiring Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas To Grace Any Home

Reduce Your Plastic Footprint 109 Popular & Proven Steps

A proud father of two boys, an amateur actor, and a green living enthusiast, Mark has been sharing hints, tips, and sustainable living content on his website Sustainability Dad since august 2019.

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