By Don Corrigan
There’s another issue with tissue. This time it’s not because of grocery shelves being raided of toilet paper in a pandemic panic. At issue this time is the loss of old-growth forests as humans appear to be on a roll consuming bathroom supplies.
Environmental Missouri reports that TP is disappearing before our eyes, in part because major companies are using valued trees to make toilet paper for retailers. The decline in forests across our planet is sharp with a loss of a third of our world’s forests in just a few decades.
According to Environmental Missouri, the culprit behind the deforestation in Canada is soft – retailers like Costco are lining their shelves with extra fluffy toilet paper made from the boreal — one of our last, great North American forests.
These forested lands host Canadian lynx, snowshoe hare and even wood bison. In the treetops above the Great White North, nearly half of all North American birds rely on the forest during migration.
Growing demand for toilet paper is putting an unprecedented strain on Canada’s boreal forest, according to the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
In a just-released report, the NRDC describes a “tree-to-toilet pipeline” that is having severe consequences for wildlife and indigenous communities. The global climate also will be increasingly affected if no action is taken.
“Across the world, forests are being cut down to become throwaway tissue products such as toilet paper, facial tissue, and paper towels. Most of the time, these products end up in the trash can or toilet after one use – their toll on the environment forgotten or ignored,” according to the NRDC report.
The U.S. leads the world in toilet paper use, with the average American’s toilet paper consumption at 141 rolls per year. That’s almost double the rate of Italy and France.
Americans represent more than 20% of the global toilet paper market with 3% of the world’s population. Americans appear to put more of an emphasis on tush gush comfort than most people around the globe when it comes to toilet paper selection.
Toilet paper is not the only item Americans can use to swipe and wipe themselves clean. In the past, snow, moss, corncobs and retail catalogs were all in widespread use. Toilet paper became popularized in the U.S. about 100 years ago in the early 20th century.
No need to drop your drawers and go back to that trusty corncob, though. The good news is there are suitable and sustainable alternatives, such as recycled paper, bamboo or even wheat straw that other countries are adopting.
According to the NRDC report, the three largest toilet paper manufacturers in the U.S. have yet to adopt alternatives to virgin pulp in any significant way.
Regrettably, the global TP trend is now moving in the direction of American back-end practices. A huge toilet paper uptake in the developing world has helped push tissue products to become the fastest-growing part of the paper industry.
Soft toilet paper production has been increasing by about 3.5% every year between 2010 and 2015. Groups like Environmental Missouri and the NRDC are sounding the alarm.
Unfortunately, until the tissue issue is recognized as a widespread global problem, no concrete action will be taken. In the current pandemic mode, TP use is not high on the list of concerns for most Americans.
Some environmentalists are vowing to make a conscious effort cut down on the number of sheets per sitting. This could be a bit of a bummer for the old bum, but the Canadian lynx and snowshoe hare will be grateful – and that’s not meant as a wisecrack.