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America’s high demand for toilet paper is destroying Canadian forests

A new report has found that Americans use more toilet paper than any other population in the world with a tissue market that generates $31 billion each year.

The report, conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the environmental group, shows that our propensity for tree-pulp paper products is degrading Canadian forest habitats and threatens indigenous communities.

Even though the United States accounts for just four percent of the world’s population, the country is responsible for 20 percent of total global toilet paper use.

On average, Americans go through about three rolls of toilet paper a week.

The super-soft, two-ply toilet paper that’s a staple in your bathroom, the facial tissue you always have on hand if you get a cold, and the quilted paper towels you use to mop up the kitchen counter are all typically made of tree-pulp.

While tree-pulp paper products are easy on your wallet, the new “Issue with Tissue” report emphasizes the high environmental costs of single-use paper products.

The NRDC describes the manufacturing and consumption of paper products as a “tree-to-toilet-pipeline,” where trees are cut down to make pulp which is turned into paper that is soon flushed away.

Most wood-pulp comes from boreal forests in Canada which stretches from the Yukon to Newfoundland.

It’s a vast habitat, home to caribou and over a hundred species of birds. 70 percent of Canada’s indigenous communities live in the country’s forested regions, but logging destroys a million acres of boreal forests each year to help meet the demand for tree-pulp paper products.

The impacts of logging on the forest ecosystem are devastating both the indigenous communities and native wildlife.

“Some communities have only a fraction of their forest left intact,” the report states. “Although Canadian governments have made efforts toward reconciliation…often communities
do not have the power to say no to development on their lands.”

Logging also contributes to climate change, and less tree cover means more carbon emissions are released into the atmosphere.

The report called out tissue manufacturers Procter & Gamble Co., the makers of Charmin, and Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Georgia-Pacific which manufacture Angel Soft and Quilted Northern, as some of the least environmentally friendly tissue paper companies.

“The average American consumer doesn’t think about how their toilet paper is made,” said Shelley Vinyard, a co-author of the report and campaign manager of the NRDC’s boreal corporate campaign. “We can’t afford this old-fashioned and outdated approach to making toilet paper and other tissue products, given the climate crisis and the urgent need to keep our forests intact.”

The report includes a “buyer’s guide to the sustainability of at-home tissue products,” where different popular tissue brands are graded on their sustainability and eco-friendly materials so consumers can make more informed decisions when stocking up on toilet paper.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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