How Much Waste Does Toilet Paper Create for the Environment?

Laxmi staring behind a bunch of toilet paper rolls looking shocked

The toilet paper crisis of 2020. Never had there been so much attention on this household staple. People started hoarding rolls of toilet paper, nervous that it wouldn’t be available due to pandemic-related supply chain issues.

And while everything turned out in the end and the frenzy made for some great toilet jokes, it did put toilet paper at the top of everyone’s minds for a bit, and that’s a good thing. Since most toilet-related things are out of sight, out of mind, it’s important to take a minute and think about some of our bathroom essentials.

In 2022, you’ve probably used about 100 rolls of toilet paper by yourself. As a world, we’ve used over 72 trillion feet of toilet paper this year. That’s enough TP to go around the earth 50,000 times or travel to the sun and back every seven days. That’s *a lot* of toilet paper.

Environmental Impact of Toilet Paper and Toilet Paper Rolls 

Before we dive into how toilet paper is affecting the earth, let’s talk about how it’s made. Trees are first debarked and then cut into chips. The wood is mixed with water and some chemicals to make it into the slurry. The manufacturing plant cooks and processes that slurry into wide sheets of fibers that get rolled around a thin piece of cardboard (the toilet paper roll).

The global annual production of toilet paper requires:

  • 712 million trees
  • 1,165 million tons of water
  • 78 million tons of oil

And that’s just to produce the toilet paper—not to mention the production of toilet paper rolls, plastic to wrap the finished rolls in, and the impact from shipping.

So, the stats are jaw-dropping. So what? Everyone needs toilet paper, so what is there to do?

How to Cut the Crap When It Comes to Toilet Paper Waste

Use Less

Have you ever counted how many sheets you use when you go to the bathroom? Try that for the next couple of days and see what your consumption is like! Make it into a game—see how few sheets you can use while still staying comfortable and clean.

Look Into Recycled Products

Most toilet paper is made with virgin fiber—that’s the chip and slurry that we talked about above. There are companies now making sustainable, recycled products to help you keep using those bathroom essentials that don’t mess with our natural resources.

Recycled toilet paper uses about half of the water and one-third of the energy, making recycled toilet paper an environment-friendly option.

Install a Bidet

If you want to take your zero-waste bathroom game to the next level, consider investing in a bidet. These handy devices use water pressure instead of paper to get rid of all that waste. And if you’re worried about cleanliness, bidets are actually a lot cleaner than using toilet paper—the heat kills off any bacteria and the stream washes away any waste post-flush.

Recycle Toilet Paper Rolls

You can either put them in the recycling bin or reuse them for different household projects. Here’s a list of useful ways to put those toilet paper rolls to work:

  • Wrapping paper holders
  • Fire starters
  • Bird feeder
  • Seed starter
  • Eyeglass case (if you wrap it in a good fabric and staple the bottom)
  • Compost
  • Take your pick from this list of cute kids’ crafts

Make Your Impact a Positive One With ZuLoo

Toilet paper is important—it’s part of *almost* everyone’s daily life. We say “almost” because while toilet paper waste is a part of our lives, there are 2.3 billion people in the world who don’t have access to safely managed sanitation (AKA a safe and clean place to go to the bathroom).

By being more aware of your consumption and getting to know the organizations that provide these essential services to people around the world, you can help some of those 2.3 billion get access to one of the most basic human functions: a safe place to go to the bathroom.

To be a part of ZuLoo’s mission to build toilets for those who need them most, take a look at our Pōōdcast and 242 Partner program. And don’t forget to count your sheets the next time you go to the loo!