Bamboo toilet paper VS Recycled toilet paper

Toilet rolls are not the most glamorous items, but they are one of the most everyday, with the average person in the UK using 127 rolls per year. So it’s worth thinking about the impact all these sheets are having on our environment. Tissue brands used to highlight the softness, strength, and length of their finished products, but these days you are just as likely to hear how materials like bamboo and recycled paper make for a greener roll. 

In order to judge which rolls are truly sustainable we need to look behind the bold claims, to the manufacturing process that starts with the raw material and ends with the toilet roll in your bathroom. 

At Naked Sprout we offer both recycled and bamboo options, and because we prioritise sustainability at every stage of manufacturing we’ve learned a lot about loo rolls. So we’ve put together answers to some common questions about bamboo toilet rolls, recycled alternatives, and the difference between the two.

Is it better to buy recycled or bamboo toilet paper? 

Bamboo is a great, highly renewable source for tissue paper manufacture. It grows quickly, using less land and water to grown than traditional timber sources, and because its a grass it replenishes itself naturally from the root, meaning it does not need to be replanted after the stem is cut.  

Of course, when we’re thinking about sustainable manufacturing we also need to consider how raw material gets to the factory. At Naked Sprout we are proud to manufacture in a B Corp factory in Europe, but what does the transport of the raw material mean for our emissions? At the moment our bamboo is grown by FSC-certified suppliers in China, and comes to us via sea freight. It seems like a long trip, but it surprised us to learn that emissions for transport for our bamboo are actually slightly lower than the emissions generated by the raw material transport for recycled tissue. This is because the boxes, paper, and card we recycle are gathered from many locations, meaning more transportation miles in total to get them to the factory. You can see all of our emissions calculations in our detailed Life Cycle Assessment.

The good news for us as at Naked Sprout is that the carbon costs of transport for all of our products, whether made from bamboo or recycled material, are outweighed by the fact that our B Corp factory generates its own renewable energy on site. But our manufacturing is highly unusual. Most of the energy used in tissue manufacture is in the heat that dries the pulp, and most manufacturers use fossil fuels to generate this heat. Those with more eco-friendly products may turn to offsetting to try to balance out these emissions, but offsetting isn’t part of the picture at Naked Sprout.

Is it better to buy recycled toilet paper? 

Given the fantastic properties of bamboo, you might wonder why we have chosen to offer recycled rolls as well. The main benefit of recycling is as a way of dealing with waste. Changes to the way we live, work, and shop, particularly the phenomenon of home working since the pandemic, have led to a huge rise in home deliveries and a massive amount of brown cardboard boxes and envelopes that need to be recycled.  

Our factory already uses onsite generators to harness the sun, the wind, and even the gases produced by local sheep herds, so they weren’t about to let all that cardboard go to waste. By finding a use for these boxes we are making sure we get the maximum life out of materials that have already been made, and we are promoting chains of re-use and recycling that will serve us into the future. 

And, once again, it’s important to challenge manufacturers on the source of the recycled materials they use. At Naked Sprout we know this for sure - It’s waste cardboard that has been sourced locally by our factory in Spain, along with the offcuts from our boxes and our own bamboo rolls (we had to sneak some bamboo in there somewhere!) 

What is the healthiest toilet paper to use? 

Toilet paper comes into daily contact with our skin. Like with other hygiene products, we need to know if the processes and chemicals involved in manufacturing pose any potential health issues. Recent studies have provided a clearer picture of the implications of bleached toilet rolls for our health, finding an elevated risk of problems such as chronic irritation and certain cancers due to the chemicals introduced in the bleaching process. 

And it’s not just our own health we need to think about. The bleach that brings the natural brown colour of pulped timber and recycled material up to the bright white of a standard toilet roll has to be manufactured in the first place, and this will, of course, have an impact in terms of road miles, packaging, and energy used in manufacturing, all for the sake of a cosmetic change. 

When it comes to the health of our customers and our planet we’re not taking any chances. We don’t add bleach to any of our products, bottom line, full stop. In fact, we don’t add any harsh chemicals at all. So you know that your toilet rolls, kitchen rolls, and tissues don’t have any chlorine, dyes, or scents added, and that our factory isn’t adding any excess harmful chemicals to the water we use to make Naked Sprout. 

What is the truth about bamboo toilet paper?

When people ask what the actual advantages of bamboo toilet paper are, they want to know if it can live up to the hype; does the fact that the raw material renews so quickly really outweigh the environmental costs associated with transport and manufacture? 

This is such an important question - raw material is only one part of the equation. In order to actually harness the sustainability of bamboo we need to make sure we aren’t simply moving the problem on to another part of the supply and manufacturing chain.

When we look at bamboo in isolation, the benefits are clear. Bamboo grows and matures quickly, replenishes itself naturally, and is able to grow using less water and land than traditional timber sources. Its credentials as a timber source are so good that Project Drawdown has included the cultivation of bamboo as one of their 100 solutions for a science-based plan to avoid climate catastrophe. 

But to really benefit we need to make sure the bamboo is manufactured sustainably as well. So at Naked Sprout we are building sustainability into every part of our process. With onsite solar, wind, water and biomass generators providing our power, and a living wage for everyone who makes our rolls, this is a bamboo roll to be proud of. 

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