Why we make Toilet Paper from Recycled Paper and not Bamboo – Elemental Recycled Products

Elemental has suspended toilet paper sales. Read more on our blog here.

Why we make Toilet Paper from Recycled Paper and not Bamboo

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I make sustainably soft toilet paper. The usual follow-up question I get is, “What makes it sustainable?” It's a good question and gives me an opportunity to talk about the benefits of making products from recycled material.

According to a recent report, only 1.7% of toilet paper sold in the US is sustainable (i.e. not made from fresh cut trees). (source) For this reason, we try to avoid comparing ourselves to other sustainable products on the market. We’re all working towards the same goal, so a new customer for any one of us is a win for the planet.

People who are especially in the know will sometimes ask me why we don’t offer a toilet paper made from bamboo. Products made from bamboo are becoming increasingly popular. The applications of bamboo are as widespread as construction materials to toilet paper. Overall, this is a great trend. Bamboo has significant advantages in many applications. But when it comes to toilet paper, we made a very conscious decision to focus on using recycled paper. Here’s why.

The first reason we decided not to make a bamboo toilet paper is that today, almost all bamboo products are shipped from Asia to the US. (source) Shipping a product across an ocean incurs a massive carbon cost. In fact, 4.5% of global carbon emissions come from transoceanic shipping - that’s 1.12 billion (with a “B”) tonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere each year from transporting products around the globe.

The second reason is that bamboo production suffers from the same challenges as “sustainable” forest management. Simply put, there is no substitute for a natural forest. When you shift land usage from natural to managed or farmed, you dramatically reduce biodiversity, reduce carbon capture, and reduce drought tolerance of the land. (source & source).

Although it isn’t our choice for toilet paper, we’ll continue to watch the bamboo space. Bamboo offers a great alternative to single use plastics (think straws, cutlery, etc.) which is definitely a win for the planet. The US bamboo industry is in its infancy, but is showing signs of growth and could become viable to commodity products like toilet paper in the future.

For now, we’ll continue to focus on making toilet paper from recycled paper. If your goal is minimize your impact on the planet with your lifestyle choices, we believe that choosing a locally made product that does not require cutting down any plant (tree, bamboo, or otherwise) is the best choice.  

Steve Poleskey - Founder

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