Can this be true?


I was listening to the radio program The World yesterday and one item struck me as barely credible. It said that Americans are the heaviest users of toilet paper. That itself was not surprising because Americans in general consume a lot more per person than most other parts of the world. But what was shocking was that Americans use three rolls of toilet paper per person per week!

Can that really be true? I know that our household comes nowhere close to using at that rate because I am the person who purchases it.

But apparently that is the case. What is worse is that the report said that the major manufacturers of toilet paper in the US refuse to use recycled paper for it, choosing instead to use virgin forests from the boreal forests in Canada, depleting them at a massive rate.

The NRDC/Stand.earth report features a sustainability-based scorecard for at-home tissue brands, assigning “F” grades to such leading U.S. toilet paper brands as Charmin, Quilted Northern, and Angel Soft. Brands using recycled paper content, including 365, Seventh Generation, and Natural Value were among those awarded “A” grades in the report. The NRDC/Stand.earth scorecard also ranks facial tissues and paper towels.

Anthony Swift, director, Canada Project, NRDC, said: “Most Americans probably do not know that the toilet paper they flush away comes from ancient forests, but clear-cutting those forests is costing the planet a great deal. Maintaining the Canadian boreal forest is vital to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.”

Charmin, the nation’s leading toilet paper brand made by Procter & Gamble, is specifically called out for refusing to increase its use of recycled materials.

The Canadian boreal is a vast landscape of coniferous, birch, and aspen trees. It contains some of the last of the world’s remaining intact forests, and is home to over 600 Indigenous communities, as well as boreal caribou, pine marten, and billions of songbirds. The loss of intact boreal forest is impacting Indigenous Peoples’ ways of life and driving the decline of caribou and other species.

We long ago shifted to using brands that use recycled paper because it seems silly to use high quality paper for such a purpose.

Comments

  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    I was in college and had a couple roommates. Was calculating the costs for shared materials. One roommate said he shouldn’t have to pay for facial tissues (“Kleenex”) since he blew his nose with toilet paper. I said fine, but that means you should be paying a higher share for the toilet paper. The discussion ended peacefully.

  2. anat says

    A few months back there was a local news article about a janitor somewhere in the area who collects rolls of toilet paper from his workplace to give to homeless people. His employer insists that every morning all toilet stalls have fresh, never-started rolls, even if the roll from the previous day was barely started. Policies like this can result in massive pointless waste of toilet paper.

  3. Curious Digressions says

    It probably depends on the demographics of the household. Based on my family, sample size non-representative; women use more toilet paper than men, kids use more toilet paper than adults. When everyone is sick and we run out of tissues, we probably use 3 rolls a week.

  4. Jazzlet says

    Curious Digressions
    But is that three rolls each per week? There are only two of us, but I don’t think we use one a week.

  5. ridana says

    How much is a roll? Single or double ply? I guess I can believe it if you’re talking single roll, single ply, because there’s not much paper on what they call a “single” roll these days. If it’s single ply you’ll probably need almost twice as much as double ply.

    2) @ anat: that really seems extra stupid, since only one person per stall each day experiences the unstarted roll. Do employees vie for the honor of being first in the stall?

  6. Some Old Programmer says

    I have the same reaction, but I’ve had it before with other commodity consumption figures. Per Wikipedia, the US had, in 2010, an annual per-capita consumption of 9.2 liters of pure alcohol; assuming that only counts the fraction of a beverage that is alcohol, I find that difficult to comprehend. Or Forbes reports in a 2015 article the US consumes 9.5 pounds of chocolate per capita per year (which, admittedly, I find easier to believe).

    So far I’ve just put down such reports as something I don’t understand, as the figures are very much out of line with my own consumption. I’d be interested in knowing the statistical mode as well as the average.

  7. anat says

    Usually consumption figures are based on things like the amount that is sold, so if there is a lot of waste of said product consumption figures get inflated.

  8. Sam N says

    Often, the problem with these idiotic reports is use of mean consumption. Why we still tolerate any report that does not show a distribution is beyond me. Use of the median is far better for indicating more ‘typical’ consumption.

    There are people with pretty severe and regular gastric problems that likely greatly distort the mean figure. You ever wait at a public restroom and hear that guy just pulling out more and more toilet paper over 5 minutes? Probably contributes to janitorial problems with clogging pipes, too. Why we are so uncivilized and never adopted bidets is beyond me--but Americans have far from the most intelligent or diligent of cultures. If I ever earn enough to own a home, I certainly will do so.

  9. says

    Benedic:

    Most of my fat is in my belly, not on my rear. Don’t see how that would work.

    The health club I use has weak toilets, and sometimes I am amazed at the amount of toilet paper left in toilets that didn’t flush properly.

  10. Marshall says

    I’m going to offer another explanation: most Americans buy super-soft triple-ply toilet paper, which is really thick and cushiony. It runs out *really* quickly because there isn’t much of it at all per roll. I’d bet that, while Americans probably do use toilet paper at a higher rate per area of paper, the rolls they use have way way less toilet paper than your average country.

    I’d much rather see a number relating to how much actual toilet paper is used (in terms of area).