The True Costs of Using Toilet Paper

toilet paperFor many people using toilet paper is a given, especially in the USA, something that is done without a second thought. What are the true costs and effects of using toilet paper though? In order to answer this question several aspects need to be evaluated. General costs, deforestation and the loss of trees, the chemicals used to process toilet paper and the effect that these chemicals have on the environment, and even the water and energy required to manufacture toilet paper all have to be considered. Recycled paper is one possible option to help lower the true costs and effects of using toilet paper but many people have a mistaken belief that recycled toilet paper is still inferior when it comes to roughness and cleaning. Americans on average use 23.6 rolls of toilet paper per person every year.

General Toilet Paper Costs

Toilet paper costs can vary widely, and will depend on a number of factors. Whether the roll of toilet paper is one ply or two ply will affect the price, and the number of sheets on the roll also play a part in cost. There are also environmental costs that need to be considered, such as the damage that deforestation has and the pollution that can be caused by the chemicals used in the toilet paper making process. Recycled toilet paper can be a more environmentally choice but this option is not always less expensive because the recycled paper must be processed carefully to ensure quality products.

How Many Trees are Used for Toilet Paper Each Year?

It is estimated that roughly 27,000 trees are cut down every single day in order to provide toilet paper for the world, and around 50% of these trees come from virgin forests and old growth specimens that are hundreds of years old or even older. Many of the trees that are used come from primary forests that are sorely needed to help prevent further global warming and increased carbon in the atmosphere. Logging is occurring in forests that are incredibly diverse, and many of these areas contain protected or even endangered species. Toilet paper is filling up landfills in the USA and around the globe at an alarming rate.

Chemicals and the Toilet Paper Manufacturing Process

The chemicals used in the toilet paper manufacturing process can be very harmful to the environment. Chlorine is used to bleach the paper so that it is white, soft, and visually appealing, but this chemical is devastating to the environment. Dioxins do not become diluted or wash away, and these chemicals build up in fatty tissues. Exposure to dioxins can cause many health problems and disease, and these chemicals end up in the waterways and soil. While manufacturers no longer use dioxin the bleaching process can produce these compounds as a byproduct. Cancer, learning disorders, a decrease in immune system function, birth defects, and even lower sperm counts can all result from environmental exposure to dioxins.

The Energy Required to Produce Toilet Paper

In the USA alone around 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper are used every year, and this can have an enormous cost in terms of energy use. The manufacturing process for this amount of toilet paper will require approximately 17 terawatts of electricity each year, including the packaging and transportation of the finished rolls. Recycling one single ton of paper can save over 4,000 kilowatt hours of energy, and this amount can power the average home in America for 6 months as well as saving 17 trees from being cut down.

How Much Water is Needed for Toilet Paper Manufacturing?

In order to satisfy the American market alone for toilet paper each year toilet paper manufacturers must use 473,587,500,000 gallons of water on an annual basis. This can be a big concern because many areas of the country and the globe are facing water shortages. Recycling just one ton of paper can save almost 7,000 gallons of water. Using a bidet can greatly reduce the amount of water used, save trees, and protect the environment from harmful chemicals by decreasing or even eliminating the use of toilet paper completely.

References:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/science/earth/26charmin.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
http://encyclopedia.toiletpaperworld.com/toilet-paper-history/toilet-paper-and-the-environment
http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/06/01/why-are-americans-flushing-old-growth-forests-down-toilet
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2009/feb/26/toilet-roll-america
http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2010/04/16/27000_trees_a_day_used_for_toilet_tissue/
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talks-bidets/

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