The festive season is right around the corner and with it a mountain of wrapping paper. Gift-givers in the UK get through about 108 million rolls of the stuff every year!
The environmental impact of all this wrapping is alarming for those of us in the toilet roll game - we know the processes and emissions associated with producing that much paper. And we take a special interest in wrapping for another reason; at Naked Sprout we are one of the few eco toilet roll companies who don’t wrap our rolls.
With many of us gearing up to scale the great Wrapping Mountain of 2023, and some other eco brands even adding to the pile with special Christmas wrapping on their toilet rolls, we wanted to focus on this very modern practice. Why do some eco tissue brands wrap their rolls, and why don’t we?
Why don’t you wrap your rolls?
First things first. We launched Naked Sprout in 2020 and our position has always been the same - we are a wrapping free zone.
We don’t wrap our rolls for the same reason that we don’t bleach them. The paper, dyes, and chemicals that make all that colourful wrapping doesn’t grow on trees. Wrapping our rolls would drastically increase our climate footprint and add unnecessary dyes, chemicals, and bleach to our operations. We couldn’t do it without a really good reason.
So what are some of the reasons given by the wrappers? Here are a few we’ve heard.
Reason 1: Blocking Moisture
Some eco tissue companies state that wrapping their toilet rolls keeps them free of moisture. The thinking here is that absorbent material like tissue will absorb moisture from the atmosphere, damaging the rolls.
Of course there is some atmospheric moisture in the air at all times (particularly here in the UK!) and it’s possible that the wrapping keeps some of this out. But atmospheric moisture is also on our clothes, our carpets, our books, just about anything you can imagine. It would be a concern if rolls were regularly showing any signs of damp as a result of normal atmospheric moisture, but this simply isn’t the case.
And we are especially wary of this reason because of what “blocking moisture” can mean in the paper industry.
You may have heard of PFAS. These are toxic “forever chemicals” that are added to products to make them resist water, stains, and heat. We now know they also may have serious implications for human and environmental health. Toilet rolls are thought to be a major culprit in spreading PFAS into our water supply. A recent study by the University of Florida tested rolls from manufacturers around the world and found fluorine, a marker that PFAS are present, in all of the rolls.
The implications for the health of people who use toilet rolls with PFAS is being urgently investigated. In the meantime, we need to understand why PFAS are in toilet rolls in the first place.
We believe there are two main ways PFASs are entering toilet rolls - either from lubricants used in the machinery to stop them sticking, or from water-repelling wrapping.
We don’t use any lubricants with PFAS at Naked Sprout, and we keep our tissue pulp separate from our machinery with a layer of felt. We also don’t wrap our rolls, so we were already confident our processes were free of PFAS. But after the University of Florida study came out we tested our bamboo rolls to get some independent confirmation. We were relieved but not surprised, by the result: no PFAS detected.
We cannot speak for other companies, we don’t know the materials they are using on their paper wrapping to help keep their rolls free of moisture. We are aware that one brand (who wrap their rolls) have admitted that organic fluorine, the marker of PFAS, has been detected when their products were tested, but they have not specified if these were found in only the wrappers, or in the toilet tissue itself.
We think most companies out there will have done their own testing. If you’re looking at wrapped rolls it’s worth asking about the rolls, and the wrapping, and whether they have been tested.
Reason 2: Easier storage
Next up in the reasons for wrapping - easier storage. Some brands argue that wrapping their rolls makes them easier to store at home, and keeps them free of dust.
We consider ourselves toilet paper experts but we must admit we’ve never seen a dusty roll! We did a quick straw poll of people here at Naked Sprout and found that most of our team keep their rolls in the box they came in, normally in a cupboard somewhere, and just retrieve rolls as they go.
Of course if you did have some rolls that were left unused and out of the box for a very long time you might see some dust accumulate; you could take off the outside sheets (about two sheets would be needed) and that should fix the issue!
Reason 3: Protection in transport
A last reason you will often hear is that wrapping rolls provides protection in transport, in case boxes get damaged or boxes get wet.
Damaged boxes are the bane of any company that delivers directly to customers! Our own position is straightforward. We keep revising and strengthening our boxes, and working with our delivery partner to identify stress points and mitigate them. We will replace any rolls that are damaged or wet, or offer a refund if that works better.
We’d hope other companies are doing the same thing, whether they’re wrapping or not. After all, a box that’s been soaked by rain will still have wet rolls in it, even if the rolls are wrapped. Unless, of course, the rolls are wrapped tightly with something that repels water, bringing us right back to the concerns about PFAS in toilet rolls.
Problems with delivery are far and away the exception rather than the rule. If these exceptions were producing so much waste that they outweighed the material and climate cost of wrapping every roll we sell, we’d rethink our stance. But they don’t, not even close.
Other eco brands are starting to acknowledge this, with several now offering unwrapped rolls as an alternative to their wrapped products.
It turns out that dust and moisture and transport snags aren’t enough to stop companies from selling bare rolls if there’s a market for them, but they still sell the wrapped version, and these are the ones they feature in their advertising. Some will include a single wrapped roll in the box even if you purchase their bare rolls.
Why is this, given the extra pollution, emissions, waste, and cost? We can’t speak for other companies, but there’s one more important reason we haven’t got to yet…
Reason 4: It’s Pretty
Many eco brands have been quite open about this; wrapping toilet rolls is a way of making products eye-catching, and showcasing the name of a brand when they are displayed in your home.
It’s a bit of bathroom-based marketing, in other words. It also makes the products look attractive in posts on social media.
We realise we may be taking a hit by not doing this, but given all the concerns we’ve listed above, it’s just not worth it to us.
Wrapping might make a toilet roll look extra special, but we think ours are pretty special already. Taking the care to treat resources with the maximum respect is more important to us than getting our name out there or covering our products in eco messaging.
So Naked Sprout rolls come to you in their birthday suits, from our factory to your home.
We don’t have to wrap, so we don’t!
Want to try our rolls in all their naked glory?