The major brands use less recycled paper, which means more trees are cut down unnecessarily.
According to one study, toilet paper, the one product most of us use only once and throw away, is becoming less sustainable.
Analysis by Ethical Consumer magazine found that the major brands used less recycled paper than in 2011, while only five of the top nine supermarkets (Co-op, Morrisons, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose) offered private label recycled toilet paper. The large-scale use of virgin paper contributes to unnecessary deforestation.
The UK uses 1.3 million tonnes of fabric a year, according to the Confederation of Paper Industries, and the average British consumer exceeds 127 rolls each year. But the growing trend for “luxury” four-ply toilet paper rolls is driving the use of virgin pulp in an effort to create the softest product, according to the study.
"There is no need to cut down forests to make toilet paper, yet this is precisely what is happening," said Alex Crumbie, researcher at Ethical Consumer. "With consumer focus on plastic, some of the big brands have declined and even reversed the use of recycled paper in the toilet paper rolls they make."
The study highlights Kimberly-Clark, one of the world's largest suppliers of toilet paper. The proportion of recycled wood pulp used by the company has decreased over the years. In 2011, just under 30% of the total fiber used was recycled, but by 2017 this figure had fallen to 23.5%. Its popular Andrex brand used to offer a bamboo / recycled range, but it was discontinued in 2015.
A 2017 Greenpeace report warned that a large part of the Great Northern Forest of Sweden, and the biodiversity it contained, was threatened by increasing demand for virgin wood from the timber industry.
The new research signals to consumers that the chemicals used in the production of recycled paper are far less toxic than those used to bleach virgin pulp. It also warns consumers to be wary of thinking that an FSC label on a toilet paper roll is enough to ease their conscience.
Most toilet paper rolls use the FSC Mix brand. This means that the paper is made from a mix of FSC virgin wood, recycled and virgin wood from “controlled sources”. These are not fully FSC certified forests, but are considered low risk.
Kimberly-Clark said: “As one of the world's largest market pulp buyers, we know that protecting forests is critical to creating a resilient supply chain for our products. By having the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) trademark on the packaging of products like Andrex, we are using the strong reputation of our brands to raise awareness of responsible forestry around the world. ”
The study recommends Ecoleaf, Essential, Traidcraft, and Who Gives A Crap (the recycled paper version).
“Only about 30% of the world's population uses toilet paper,” Crumbie added, “so we know that there are many perfectly hygienic alternatives to using paper-based products. "It is important that we consider what we are using to cleanse our back, because right now our precious planet is getting a good deal."