Ecology And Environment

Comparing Regular Toilet Paper and Bio Degradable Toilet Paper

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In a famous episode of Seinfeld, George Costanza seduces a woman by his supposed expertise on toilet paper.  George believes the product has never evolved: “It’s just paper on a roll.”   George forgot there are so many aspects of this seemingly simple product. Today, one can find quilted, non quilted, colors, and even prints. And, George is even more wrong now, than he was then. Consumers can now choose from a wide array of biodegradable tissue, to help protect themselves and the environment.

Yet, most people are unaware of the many versions of tissues available. Here are some of the many differences between regular and newer, biodegradable tissues. 

Most tissue is made from trees, and, virtually all paper biodegrades.  But non-biodegradables require much more water usage.  Biodegradable tissue comes in an array of fiber contents also. There is sugarcane based bagasse, bamboo, cotton, wood fiber and even the African hibiscus based tissue called Kenaf.  Some plant sources for the biodegradable tissues grow faster, and can be produced from far less arable land.  All of these factors translate to a much more environmentally conscious product.

As noted, a switch to rapidly dissolving biodegradable paper saves water.  With specially designed tissue that breaks down more rapidly,  there are four major improvements. The obvious one is less water wasted. Then there is less of a clogging problem with plumbing. And a third long term investment type advantage is that biodegradable paper helps a septic system to last longer.  There are biodegradable tissues that break down four times as fast in a septic tank.  In the long run, having fewer chemicals, and degrading faster into natural waste sooner,  is healthier for people, plumbing, septic systems and soils.  

There are some more benefits to the environment by switching to biodegradable tissue.  Tissues not made from virgin stands of wood allow forest preservation. Then there are other variations on a green theme.  It comes in different ply rolls, types that have less, or no additives such as chlorine, dyes, perfume, and inks.  It is seldom quilted, or sometimes sold with less packaging.  There is also a wide variety of choices ranging between post consumer content recycled, and organically produced tissue.  Recycled, does not mean 
"used" of course, but refers to the fiber content coming from sources other than virgin forests.  Finally, without additives, people with sensitivities are less irritated, and some just prefer the wisdom of living green.  Biodegradable tissue, depending upon sources and production, can be softer, and more absorbent as well.

There are still some issues with the tissues, however. Tissue with no dyes, chlorine and heavy packaging should cost less, but because these are not produced at the same large scale as regular tissues, they often cost more.  People may prefer to live green, but pocketbooks are just as sensitive as some people’s skin. Consumers usually don't have time to weigh all the differences, but campers and boat owners already know about biodegradables.  And, slowly more and more people are becoming familiar with all the choices. All of these things can add up to long term advantages to the environment.

Until the costs come down as more and more people try “investing” in long term advantages, regular brands will likely prevail.  George Costanza would be amazed to realize just how competitive cornering the toilet paper market has become with a dazzling range of choices, from very wasteful and non-natural to recycled fibers, rapid dissolving, and additive free biodegradable tissue.

More about this author: Christyl Rivers

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