In 2018, the average consumption of toilet paper in the UK stood at 127 rolls per capita, (or more appropriately, per culus), placing us third in the ranking of most extravagant users of bog roll in the world.
The US, unsurprisingly, topped the chart, whereas our French counterparts used almost half the amount as us Brits, presumably due to the prevalence of the bidet in French lavatory culture.
Flushing away forests
Toilet paper is the throwaway product par excellence, used for a matter of seconds before being disposed of. Despite this, most major tissue brands rely heavily on virgin wood pulp for the production of their toilet tissue. Vast swathes of natural forest are cut down, only to be flushed away after a single use.
A 2017 Greenpeace report, Wiping Away the Boreal, stated that large parts of Sweden’s Great Northern Forest, and the biodiversity contained within it, is under threat from the timber industry’s increasing demand for virgin wood, much of which is used for tissue products.
A 2019 report funded by The Natural Resources Defense Council and Stand.earth ‘The Issue with Tissue’, examined the Canadian boreal, where, between 1996 and 2015, more than 28 million acres of boreal forest was logged.
Over 90% of this logging was done by clear-cutting, a technique also used in the Swedish boreal, which removes nearly all the trees from an area. Clear-cuts can take more than a century to return to pre-logged conditions, while some never do.
Forests play a vital role to life on earth. As well as being home to indigenous communities, and countless species of flora and fauna, forests also help regulate the earth’s greenhouse gases.
Around a quarter of the carbon dioxide contributed by humans to the atmosphere is removed by the world’s forests. Maintaining forests and other natural habitats is, therefore, an essential means of fighting climate change.