The average American uses nearly three rolls of toilet paper per week—which means Canada's forests are quite literally going down the toilet. Leading US toilet paper, tissue paper, and paper towel brands use only virgin fiber pulp for their products, and that pulp comes mostly from the old boreal forests in Canada. According to a new report from two international environmental groups cited by the National Post and Earth.com, the forests are being wiped out thanks to American consumers' demand—fueled by marketing campaigns—for super-soft TP, which requires the use of softwood from Canada. And then there's the fact that toilet paper is flushed rather than recycled, creating what the report calls a "tree-to-toilet pipeline." The report suggests alternative content, including recycled wood pulp, wheat straw, and bamboo, be used instead.
The report specifically calls out Procter & Gamble, Georgia-Pacific, and Kimberly-Clark, the three biggest US producers, whose brands include Charmin, Quilted Northern, Kleenex, Bounty, and more. "None of their flagship at-home brands contain recycled materials or alternative fibers," the report notes. And that, in turn, causes further environmental damage: Degraded forests can't absorb man-made greenhouse gas emissions as well as they otherwise would be able to, and carbon stored in the soil and vegetation of the forests is released into the atmosphere. Logging, in part to meet the demand for products made from tree pulp, destroys a million acres of boreal forests per year, which also puts the indigenous people and animals who live there at risk. Spokespeople from P&G and Georgia-Pacific insist they use pulp from responsibly managed forests, while Kimberly-Clark says it plans to cut its use of virgin pulp in half by 2025. (Bathroom hand dryers can be pretty gross.)