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Bamboo Toilet Paper: Pros, Cons & Interesting Facts

Bamboo toilet paper

Toilet paper—most of us use it every day without really thinking about its environmental impact. However, millions of acres of trees have been destroyed so that we have something soft to wipe with. Aside from bidets, bamboo toilet paper is considered one of the best and most environmentally friendly toilet paper alternatives. Below, we look at the benefits and drawbacks of this relatively new idea.

house divider Traditional Toilet Paper

Invented in 1857 by Joseph Gayetty, toilet paper hasn’t changed much in the last 150 years. It is made of 70% hardwood and 30% softwood, with much of the wood coming from Canada’s boreal forest. Millions of acres of forest have been felled to harvest the wood used in toilet roll production— a process that also requires vast amounts of bleach and water, potentially depriving people across the world of basic water facilities.

Recycled toilet paper is more environmentally friendly than paper made from virgin fibers, but the manufacturing process is still detrimental to the environment. Although it doesn’t require the deforestation of trees, the recycled paper is washed with lukewarm water to create a pulp, which then has air injected into it to remove the ink. Once again, the pulp is bleached before being dried, rolled, and cut.

stack of toilet paper
Image Credit By: Jasmin_Sessler, pixabay

Recycled Toilet Paper

Recycled paper is better for the environment than paper made from virgin tree fibers. It minimizes the trees that need to be cut down and uses paper and paper-based materials that would otherwise be thrown away. The process also uses around 50% less energy and 25% less water than is used when processing virgin fiber toilet paper.

However, some of the additional processes required in the manufacture of recycled toilet paper bring their own concerns. The paper is treated with several chemicals, including Bisphenol-A, also known as BPA. BPA has been linked with increased instances of certain diseases and illnesses, including heart disease and fertility problems. Air pollutants can also be found in some recycled papers.

Bamboo Toilet Paper

Bamboo toilet paper offers an alternative to virgin and recycled toilet paper. This alternative is said to be more environmentally friendly while still offering a soft and usable toilet paper. But what are the benefits of bamboo toilet paper? And are there any drawbacks to this somewhat modern take on the old classic?

Toilet paper on sink
Image Credit: New Africa, shutterstock

Bamboo Toilet Paper Pros

  • Bamboo Is Sustainable: Bamboo is known as the fastest growing plant in the world, and some species can grow as much as 3 feet in a single day. Although most species grow somewhat slower than this, they still grow much quicker than hardwood and softwood trees. It can take up to 50 years for a replanted tree to be ready to harvest Bamboo can be ready for harvesting in just 5 years.
  • No Chemicals or Inks: The toilet paper manufacturing process uses chlorine as a bleaching agent, fragrances to improve the aroma of the paper, and other chemicals. Not only does this mean that the chemicals make contact with our most sensitive parts, but it also means that they are being flushed down our toilets and into the water system. Bamboo toilet paper typically uses natural alternatives or no bleaching and fragrance agents at all.
  • Bamboo Can Be Grown in Many Places: Not only is bamboo incredibly fast growing, but it is also a hardy plant that can be grown in a good variety of climates and conditions. In fact, it can be grown in five of the eight continents around the world.
  • Bamboo Toilet Paper Is Biodegradable: The vast majority of toilet paper goes down the toilet and into the sewage or septic system. So, while it is claimed that it is recyclable, this rarely happens. When toilet paper is recycled, it is a lengthy process that requires extensive cleaning. It takes a lot of power and water. Bamboo toilet paper is completely biodegradable, so it breaks down in the water in a sewer system or septic tank and doesn’t need recycling.
  • No Habitat Destruction: When large areas of forest are cut down for toilet paper manufacturing, it destroys the habitats, including the nesting and breeding grounds of many animals. Bamboo toilet paper is not the same species that is eaten by pandas, and there is little, if any, risk to wildlife.
  • Less Space Needed: Bamboo grows very densely, so a large colony of this short-rooted plant can be grown in a small area.
  • Soft Wipe: Bamboo fibers are very soft, hence its use in the manufacturing of clothing and other items.
  • Kind to Skin: Bamboo is antibacterial. This is beneficial when the plant is growing because it means that it is resistant to most insects and some diseases. It is also beneficial when used as toilet paper because it can help protect our skin and our bodies while also keeping us clean.

Bamboo Toilet Paper Cons

  • Expensive: Bamboo toilet paper is still a relatively new idea, which means there aren’t too many companies involved in its manufacturing. In comparison, tree-based toilet paper has been manufactured for 150 years or more, during which time the process has been optimized and costs reduced. Bamboo toilet paper is more expensive than traditional and even recycled toilet paper alternatives, although prices are dropping.
  • Difficult to Find: Similarly, because the product is still new, there aren’t too many companies making it, and those that are making it are specialized. It can be difficult to find this product, especially in stores and supermarkets. You may need to buy it online and have it delivered to your home.

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Interesting Facts About Bamboo Toilet Paper

1. Bamboo Is the World’s Fastest Growing Plant

Bamboo is actually listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the fastest growing plant in the world. Some species can grow as much as 35 inches per day, which equates to 0.00002 miles per hour. The tallest recorded bamboo plant was 130 feet high, although the plant is generally considered mature once it reaches a height of 7 feet.

2. Bamboo Regrows Without Replanting

Water bamboo plant placed in a pot
Image Credit: Abdulkhafid, Shutterstock

The trees used for the manufacturing of traditional toilet paper must be replanted because they will not regrow after being chopped down. Bamboo will regrow by itself and does not need to be replanted in the same way.

3. Bamboo Toilet Paper Doesn’t Need Chemical Additives

The natural properties of bamboo mean that it does not need to be chemically treated when it is being processed. This means that there is no chlorine or other bleaches used in bamboo toilet rolls.

house divider Conclusion

Bamboo, the world’s fastest growing plant, is a more environmentally-friendly toilet paper material than hardwood and softwood trees. It grows in dense colonies, can grow up to 3 feet per day, and once it has been harvested, it doesn’t require any added chemicals to ensure that it is safe and soft for human use. Although bamboo toilet paper does tend to be more expensive and more difficult to get hold of than tree-based alternatives, it is becoming more readily available, and its costs are dropping.

Featured Image Credit: Serhii Ivashchuk, Shutterstock


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