Toilet paper. Image: Elya
The United States is literally "pouring forests into the toilet," according to a recent report that described the negative effects of the toilet paper industry on Canada's boreal forests.
The average American goes through about three rolls of toilet paper a week, and the country as a whole consumes 20% of toilet paper products around the world – the highest rate on Earth. Much of this toilet paper and tissue paper comes from old forests in Canada, and this can have negative implications for biodiversity, climate change and indigenous communities.
"Industrial logging requires more than one million acres of boreal forest each year, the equivalent of seven National Hockey League lanes every minute, in part to meet the demand for tissue products in the United States," the report said. . Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Stand.earth, two non-profit environmental organizations.
An American preference for virgin long fiber pulp, harvested from conifers such as fir trees, is highlighted in the document as a particular problem for the tree-to-toilet pipeline. Softwood dominates the boreal forest, which is a huge biome composed mostly of green trees covering much of Canada and northern Eurasia.
Softwood produces stronger toilet paper, but this advantage comes at a higher environmental price compared to recycled paper or cellulose from wheat or bamboo straw.
"The creation of products using 100% virgin fiber generates three times more carbon than products made from other types of pulp," said the report, "The issue with the fabric."
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To enable consumers to make informed choices about the consumption of their breads, NRDC and Stand.earth have created an environmental scorecard for different brands of toilet paper. Companies that rely heavily on virgin cellulose – such as Charmin, Kirkland Signature and Quilted Northern – received an F mark. Enterprises that achieved grade A included Green First, Green Forest and Trader Joe's.
Some companies have already hinted at environmentally conscious consumers promising to improve their rankings. For example, Kimberly-Clark intends to halve its virgin cellulose content by 2025, according to National Post Office.
In addition to their environmental effects, NRDC and Stand.earth argued that the toilet paper industry could affect the 600 indigenous communities of Canada's boreal forest. Although many communities are stakeholders in the timber industry, others have testified that traditional lands have been deforested without their input or consent.
"It is time to re-examine current standards of tissue production and consumption," the report concluded. "Fortunately, solutions that promote healthy forests and a healthy planet already exist. Businesses and consumers simply need to embrace them. "
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