Toilet paper greenwash

We trawled the supermarket aisles and found 21 brands of toilet paper, then star-rated them according to their sustainability claims.
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Toilet paper packaging sports a massive amount of greenwash, but many of the statements on the packaging are unsubstantiated and can’t be proven. We purchased 21 brands of toilet paper and then star rated them for sustainability claims. View the results here.

Claims that count

  • Recycled or sourced from sustainable plantations or forests - the most common environmental claim.
  • Made from 100% recycled office paper. The rationale is that recycled toilet paper is superior because it uses fewer resources, protects biodiversity and diverts waste from landfill. Most of these products are endorsed by environment groups such as Planet Ark and Clean Up Australia, which also back up these claims (and receive funding in return). 

Claims of 100% recycled content from used office paper are specific and verifiable, which means the company could easily prove the claim if asked to.

Only one of the products we surveyed, Quilton Ecoply, is vague, saying its middle layer is made from recycled fibre, without stating either the percentage that is recycled or its source.

With any recycled content product, look for “post-consumer waste” (such as used office paper). “Pre-consumer waste” is simply reprocessed off-cuts from a virgin product that has never left the factory floor.

Sustainable sources

Most brands made from virgin fibre claim to use only plantation trees or fibre from sustainable forestry.

Kimberly-Clark (maker of Kleenex and Wondersoft) uses mainly plantation trees from certified forests. The company has even undertaken a “life cycle assessment” to show that virgin fibre toilet tissue products made from plantations are just as sustainable as recycled products.

A new toilet paper, Green Soft, is labelled “No Trees” and claims to be made from bamboo, straw, reeds and cotton. According to environmental scientist Kyle O’Farrell, bamboo, straw and reeds are fast-growing crops with less impact on the environment than trees – but cotton is a water- and chemical-intensive crop and should be avoided for a single-use product such as toilet paper. Without a labelling system to verify these fibres are sustainably sourced, it’s impossible to know for sure how these claims stack up.



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