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Every day roughly 1.9 million trees — enough to cover about 45 Sydney Opera Houses — are cut down to make traditional toilet paper out of virgin wood pulp, according to a new report which looked into how consumer choices can impact the environment.
More than 60 per cent of people recently surveyed across Australia, the United Kingdom and United States were unaware of how their choice in toilet paper contributes to global deforestation, the Toilet Paper Environmental Sustainability Report found.
It’s estimated a person goes through 127 rolls a year, adding up to 42 million tonnes worldwide. And that’s leading to the loss of 700 million trees annually, the data found.
Jeremy Walker, researcher at the University of Technology Sydney’s Climate Justice Research Centre said although consumers being urged to think about their choices is a good thing, he believes the more important discussion is about having a government which actively protects the environment using legislation.
“It’s more that the real issue is not, again, what consumers choose or don’t choose, but whether we have a democracy which is capable of acting in the public interest or whether we have a government which supports destructive industries and chooses to support them over future generations chances of survival,” said Dr Walker.
Deforestation has a “severe impact” on the climate and is affecting half the world’s land surface. The report claimed millions of species are losing their natural habitat.
“There’s any number of reasons why [deforestation] is bad,” Dr Walker said.
“The largest one would be species extinction and biodiversity because extinction is completely irreversible.
“Every species that becomes extinct potentially has knock on effects to other species becoming extinct.
“The main problem that we have is not consumer choice, but rather the fact that we don’t have adequate legal protections to prevent deforestation.”
What impact can I make as a consumer?
Experts have said there are more sustainable toilet paper options available, but the big brands are yet to jump on board.
An alternative to virgin wood pulp is recycled toilet paper, made from material that would otherwise be considered waste like office paper or books.
This paper is then combined with water, bleached and made into toilet rolls.
Research shows this form of toilet paper production uses 50 per cent less energy and 90 per cent less water.
Who Gives A Crap CEO Simon Griffiths warned we are “flushing one of our most precious resources down the toilet”.
“Even some of the most dedicated eco-warriors massively underestimate the impact traditional TP production has on our forests and beyond,” Mr Griffith said.
The sustainable toilet paper company commissioned the study which was performed by Edge Environment.
Bamboo toilet paper is growing in popularity, as it is a grass and is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet.
Bamboo can take anywhere between 15 to 70 years to grow back.
Removing trees means less carbon dioxide is absorbed, leaving over 180,000,000,000 kilograms in the atmosphere each year.
Mr Griffiths said consumers have the power to change industry demand before it’s too late.
“These statistics are pretty depressing but we all have the power to change them,” he said.
There’s hope: Cosa Rica regrew it’s lost forests
Costa Rica has managed to stop and subsequently reverse deforestation.
In the 1940s, 75 per cent of Costa Rica was covered in rainforests. By the late 1980’s, more than half of forest cover has been destroyed.
In the 1990’s, Costa Rica made it illegal to chop down forest without approval from authorities.
Today, almost 60 per cent of the land is forest again.
The reforestation movement in Costa Rica makes them world leaders in coming very close to having a zero fossil fuel based economy.
“There’s no reason why we couldn’t do it,” said Dr Walker.