We are living at a time in which there is increased need for us to pay attention to the products we use. Many of us have become aware of how the fundamental items that make our lives more convenient can in fact have detrimental consequences on our environment. Some of these may not be immediate, or indeed directly affect our own lives. This makes it no less the case that we have a responsibility to gain an understanding of our disposable product use — even when it comes to our bathrooms.
One of the products that is likely to have the most impact in terms of sustainability and sanitation is toilet paper. We use a lot of it — according to one estimate, the average family in the U.S. requires around 409 regular sized rolls per year. This huge amount of paper gets flushed away into our water systems and out into nature. Just sitting around it has the potential to cause problems on our own property, as well as to the planet. Which is why biodegradable toilet paper has become an important consideration for all families. Let’s take a closer look at what it is and what our options are.
What is Biodegradable Toilet Paper?
Firstly, it’s worth noting that almost all toilet paper is biodegradable. This is because it’s created from all natural materials, largely the pulp from 70% hardwood and 30% softwood. If left to its own devices, over time this paper will gradually break down, and become decomposed by bacteria. That said, not all toilet paper breaks down at the same rate. When a manufacturer advertises their product as biodegradable toilet paper, this usually means that it is designed to dissolve more quickly than the usual types.
Why is biodegradable toilet paper different?
The differences between regular toilet paper and biodegradable toilet paper go beyond just clever, environmentally targeted branding. In order to create a product that can dissolve quickly, and use less water to do so, you need to place focus on raw materials that are naturally predisposed to break down. As a result, alongside traditional wooden materials, this paper is often created from:
- Bamboo. One of the most versatile natural materials available to us, bamboo is increasingly being used for paper products. It’s a grass, rather than the usual wood, and its fibrous nature makes it ideal for swift decomposition. The process used to make it into toilet paper also involves no chemicals, so when it breaks down it doesn’t have a damaging effect upon the environment. As bamboo is quick to regrow, it doesn’t result in mass deforestation during harvesting, making it one of the most sustainable materials available.
- Hemp. Much like bamboo, hemp’s ultra-fine fibers make this plant the perfect for production and decomposition of biodegradable toilet paper. In fact, almost all products made from hemp — including plastic — have swift biodegradable properties. As the plant also has naturally low lignin levels, it also requires fewer chemicals to transform it into a pulp that can be used for paper. Again, it’s rapid regrowth makes it a sustainable product; 20 weeks as opposed to the 20 years of most trees that are used in toilet paper production.
- Sugar Cane. The material needed to make biodegradable toilet paper is actually harvested from the waste created by sugar processing. Known as bagasse, once the juice is extracted from the cane, the remainder can be crushed down and pulped to press into paper sheets. The short fibers from the sugar cane stalk help to make this a strong, but easily dissolving paper product that doesn’t require a lot of water to deteriorate.
Why is biodegradable toilet paper good for your septic system?
As considerate homeowners, we all want to make sure that the waste systems we share are functioning correctly. However, those of us that have our own septic tanks on our properties have even more reason to ensure we choose the right paper products. Every time you flush your toilet, the paper travels through the collection of pipes, and settling in your septic tank. There are ample opportunities for toilet paper to become caught and congeal in the pipes, potentially resulting in blockages. Inside the septic tank the paper, along with natural waste, turns into a sludge that builds up. The longer this paper takes to break down, the more volume it takes up in your tank, and the more often you’ll need to have it emptied.
By choosing biodegradable toilet paper, even contents that get caught in the u-bend can be cleared away easily, with a few extra flushes or some boiling water. In fact, as this tends to break down into smaller pieces once water is applied, there is less opportunity for large amounts of paper to gather into the clumps that can cause blockages in the first place. This also means that once it reaches your septic tank, it will be broken down by bacteria much more swiftly than other types of toilet paper, resulting in it becoming full less often.
How Should You Use Biodegradable Toilet Paper?
Okay, we’re going to admit that this is a question that could result in some sarcastic responses. Don’t worry, we’re not going to get into the mechanics of toilet paper operations. That said, manufacturers have started to created more than a single type of biodegradable toilet paper. Each has a tendency to be more suited to a specific type of environment, usage, and indeed disposal.
We’re going to take a look at a few of the key area, along with a couple of the popular products that have been highly rated.
In the Home
This is likely to be the place most of us will be using the most toilet paper. Which is important to note because it also means that there’s greater potential for blockages that could lead to the need to undertake toilet repairs or more frequent septic tank emptying. For home use, manufacturers also often take into account that it will likely be used by family members of all ages, who may have skin sensitivities and health conditions. Not to mention that we don’t just use it for the traditional toilet functions, there may be some nose blowing or makeup removal as well. As such, you’re more likely to see biodegradable toilet paper that is hypoallergenic.
Seventh Generation Bathroom Tissue
The manufacturer of this biodegradable toilet paper has spent the last 30 years designing products that are better for both homes and the environment. Alongside being intended to put less pressure on septic systems, it is made without chemicals or bleaches that can harm the soil once it degrades and seeps into the ground. This is also a hypoallergenic product, and constructed as 2-ply to ensure softness for sensitive skin.
Angel Soft Toilet Paper
Angel Soft toilet paper has become one of the post popular brands of biodegradable toilet paper on the market for home use. Unusually, it’s not made from the common biodegradable materials, but manufactured using processes that don’t use, additives and chemicals. This helps ensure that the paper breaks down swiftly, and prevents pipe and septic tank clogging.
On the Move
When you’re taking a long-haul trip, knowing you have reliable bathroom facilities can bring some peace of mind. Toilets on recreational vehicles (RVs) and boats, even your camping portajohn are limited in their septic capacity. As a result, you have to make smart choices when it comes to what you flush. Some people have begun avoiding paper altogether, adopting the use of travel bidets. However, if you’re going to opt for something more traditional, manufacturers have begun to create biodegradable toilet paper that is designed to break apart easily inside portable waste systems, prevent the potential for problems, and limits your need to empty while on the move.
Scott Rapid Dissolving Toilet Paper
The Scott brand of RV and marine biodegradable toilet paper consistently makes the lists of popular and reliable sanitation products. It has been designed to dissolve four times faster than regular toilet tissue, and despite it’s 1-ply format it manages to retain strength. It’s also worth noting that it is Forest Stewardship Council-certified, as well as being endorsed by the World Wildlife Fund, making it a good choice for sustainability too.
Thetford RV & Marine Toilet Tissue
This biodegradable toilet tissue benefits from the fact that the manufacturer, Thetford, also makes portable camping toilets and septic systems. Therefore, consumers can be relatively certain that the product is designed to be suitable for mobile plumbing circumstances. It’s 1-ply format helps to support the material’s natural ability to break down rapidly, ensuring that there is less chance of blockage. They’re also manufactured to be smaller than your average roll to save space.
While biodegradable toilet paper is excellent for septic systems and can avoid the need for blockages or investing in powerful flushing toilets, it has a deeper role. The fact that it is designed to dissolve with little water and no chemicals reduces the potential for it to detrimentally affect our environment. As a result, families that are taking steps to make a meaningful change to how their day-to-day living damages the planet should be considering adopting different paper products. This is vital not just from the perspective of excessive waste production, but also reducing the pressure on ecosystems by utilizing sustainable materials. Making the simple switch to biodegradable toilet paper can be responsible on multiple levels.
Betterway Organic Bamboo Toilet Paper
There are various environmentally-targeted biodegradable toilet paper brands emerging into the market at the moment. Alongside utilizing the sustainable bamboo raw material, the manufacturers of Betterway have placed some focus on mimicking the comfort consumers get from softer, less eco-friendly products. Despite being 3-ply, it is septic safe and rapidly dissolves. For additional sustainability, it is packaged with recycled paper and cardboard, rather than plastic.
Freedom Living Toilet Paper
Sometimes it’s important to note that just because biodegradable toilet paper doesn’t come with “organic” branding, this doesn’t mean that you’re not living sustainably. Freedom Living paper is a good case in point. It has been designed without chemicals, and immediately dissolves upon contact with water —making it not only septic safe, but also prevents any potential of harm to the environment. It has also been designed for use on portable composting toilets. Remember that sustainability doesn’t begin and end at home, but wherever we are in the world.
Why Should You Use Biodegradable Toilet Paper?
For most of us, the choice of which toilet paper to use will likely come down to comfort. We want to make certain that it will do the job without causing mess, hassle, or indeed any damage to our family’s skin. However, for conscientious homeowners, biodegradable toilet paper offers positive atributes.
- Septic safety. It doesn’t clog in pipes or gather in your septic tank, taking up space. By dissolving faster than normal toilet paper, there’s a lower risk of blockage and less need to empty the tank.
- Good raw materials. Some brands on the market opt to use bamboo, hemp, or sugar cane as their source product. These are naturally well suited for both strength and rapid breakdown.
- Chemical free process. The majority of biodegradable toilet paper is made without chemicals that are found in the usual manufacturing process. As a result it is both suitable for sensitive skin and good for the environment.
- Eco-friendly product. Biodegradable toilet paper is often created from products that rapidly regrow, putting less pressure on global ecosystems. Its rapidly dissolving nature also means there is less chance for waste paper to gather in waterways, treatment areas, and landfills.
That’s not to say that it’s all plain sailing. It can sometimes be difficult to find the right brand which bridges the gap between a quickly dissolving product, and strength during use. Biodegradable toilet paper is also renowned for being more expensive than other types. In the end, your decision needs to come down to where your priorities for your home, family, and budget lie.