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The Ultimate Guide to Eco-Friendly Toilet Roll

plastic-free toilet paper uk

Looking for the ultimate guide to sustainable and eco-friendly toilet roll? Let me talk you through the options available in the UK right now. From plastic-free brands to recycled toilet paper brands, and more. And for those of you who love a spreadsheet, then you’re in for a treat!

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In 2019 I wrote a guide to the best plastic-free toilet paper. I wasn’t sure how interested Moral Fibres readers would be in this topic, but boy, was it a hot one. It turned out that people were very invested in toilet paper. I then found out last year that people are incredibly invested in toilet paper when people started hoarding toilet paper and fighting over it in shops. I don’t know about you, but at this stage of the pandemic, March 2020 feels like a lifetime ago. So, for old time’s sake, let’s bring back the loo roll chat.

What has changed since 2019 is the proliferation of eco-friendly toilet roll companies. I swear, in the last 12 months, every time I browse Instagram or Facebook, I’m served an advert by yet another eco-friendly toilet paper brand.

The choices can be overwhelming, so let’s see if I can help you navigate the toilet roll maze, by looking at the various eco-friendly, sustainable, and ethical factors to consider.

guide to eco-friendly toilet roll in the UK, from the plastic-free brands to the recycled paper brands

What Is The Most Eco-Friendly Toilet Roll?

When it comes to the most eco-friendly toilet roll, as with any item, the most eco-friendly option is always the reusable option. Family cloth* as it’s cringingly known. Single-use products always have a higher environmental impact. However, family cloth isn’t always the most appealing swap. My family certainly aren’t on board with the idea, so we stick with disposable toilet roll.

You do what works for you, and continue to remember that oil and gas companies created the concept of the individual carbon footprint to make you think that climate change is your fault, and not the fault of the oil and gas industry.

If family cloth isn’t for you, then it turns out it’s incredibly tricky to say for sure what is the most eco-friendly toilet roll available right now.

Some brands use virgin bamboo, and ship their products from China, yet are plastic-free. Meanwhile, some brands use recycled paper and make their products in the UK, yet wrap their toilet roll in plastic.

Some brands wrap their toilet paper in individual wrappers, adding to their carbon footprint. Other brands don’t wrap their rolls, but they do bleach their toilet paper with chlorine to make it whiter. In short, there is a lot to consider.

There’s also the matter of budget – some brands cost almost 3 times as much as others for the same amount of toilet paper.

To help you navigate this tricky toilet paper decision-making, I’ve scoured shops and the internet for as many eco-friendly toilet rolls as I could find. I’ve then scored their eco-credentials. In fact, I’ve put together the ultimate spreadsheet, allowing you to quickly compare brands and chose a toilet roll that fits with your values and potentially your budget. I love a good spreadsheet, so hopefully, you’ll love this one too.

Guide to plastic-free eco-friendly toilet paper

It’s quite tricky making tables accessible. Therefore if you are reading this on a smartphone or tablet, then it’s probably best to turn your device on its side to view this table properly.

I’ve tried to factor in as many eco-purchasing decision-making factors as possible. However, the larger the table becomes, the less accessible it gets, so I have stopped here.

The Eco-Friendly Toilet Paper Roll Brands

The brands I assessed for this chart were as follows.

Please note that I based pricing on the largest pack I could find. This means there may be discrepancies in the price per 100 sheets if you buy a smaller quantity.

What Eco-Friendly Factors Should I Prioritise?

If family cloth isn’t for you, then you might be wondering what eco-friendly factors you should prioritise when it comes to buying eco-friendly toilet paper.

This question was tricky in 2019, and it’s still tricky now. It’s all down to your own personal ethical values and priorities.

Personally, here what I prioritise:

Materials

I still maintain that the most eco-friendly toilet roll is one that is made from recycled materials, rather than using virgin materials (no matter how fast-growing these materials are). Producing items from recycled materials does tend to be a less environmentally damaging activity.

I also worry that the rise in popularity of bamboo could see bamboo crops being cultivated on land where its cultivation displaces food crops or places pressure on regional water supplies.

Manufacturing Location

I favour toilet paper made in the UK or EU. This is because, depending on where you read, shipping products by boat is either terrible in terms of carbon emissions or incredibly efficient in terms of carbon emissions.  Whatever side of the argument you take, then, either way, shipping a product all the way around the world to simply use once to wipe our bums and then flush down the toilet, to me seems to be such an incredible waste of resources.  

There are also huge unregulated issues with human rights when it comes to shipping and the people who work in the shipping industry.  These include abuse, slavery, and unsafe working conditions which are beyond the control and scope of toilet roll producers.

Packaging  

I would always pick a brand of toilet paper wrapped in plastic that was made in the UK from recycled paper, over a plastic-free alternative that was shipped from the other side of the world. The good news is that paper packaging, which used to be the norm for toilet paper, is finally coming back. It’s great to see brands like Sainsbury’s offering paper-wrapped toilet paper.

I also avoid the brands that wrap their toilet paper in individual wrappers.  This paper usage feels completely unnecessary as many other brands are able to package their toilet paper without wrapping their toilet rolls individually, without any problem.

Cost & Accessibility

Cost is also a huge issue. Advising people to spend £40+ on 5 or 6 months’ worth of toilet paper is hardly intersectional. Not everyone has the financial ability to bulk buy eco-friendly toilet rolls. And that’s before we’ve even thought about the logistics of storing 48 toilet rolls. Being able to pick up a four-pack or nine-pack of toilet paper locally can be a really important factor that can’t be overlooked in this discussion.

In short, there’s no easy answer to what to prioritise. I would choose what option is best for your own circumstances, and keep finding ways to tackle climate change.

PS: Dropping in to say that as of April 2022 there are big changes to the toilet paper market due to rapidly rising production costs. Some brands have reduced the size of their rolls and others are increasing costs. I’ll update this post shortly to reflect the changing market.

Arts & Crafts, Life & Style, Special Occasions

How To Make A Popcorn Garland for Your Christmas Tree

Are you looking to make a popcorn garland for your tree this Christmas? Here’s a full, easy-to-follow guide on how to make this visually stunning plastic-free and zero-waste garland.

I’ve written before about eco-friendly Christmas decorations for your eco-friendly Christmas tree, but what about if you want to make your own Christmas decorations? Well, you are in luck, because today let me show you just how easy and effective it is to make a popcorn garland. You can then use this garland to decorate your Christmas tree as an eco-friendly alternative to tinsel. Or you could string it up on your banister or walls or wherever you want to add a festive touch to your home.

This is really great craft to make whilst getting cosy watching a festive movie, or as a fun family Christmas crafting activity. As a guide, I’d say kids who are age 7 or 8 and upwards might be able to make this. However, as this craft involves using a large needle, then I’d leave it to you to make your own judgment as to whether this activity is within your kid’s capabilities.

How To Make a Festive Popcorn Garland

Image of a popcorn garland, with popcorn and cranberries and pinecones in a bowl, with a blue text box that says how to make a popcorn Christmas tree garland

Here’s the full guide to make this beautiful garland for your Christmas tree:

You Will Need

  • Freshly popped popcorn
  • Fresh cranberries
  • Dental floss (I would use a compostable natural dental floss, like this one*, rather than plastic based floss to make it zero-waste and plastic free). Alternatively, you could use 100% cotton embroidery thread, but I prefer the floss.
  • Darning needle
  • Scissors

Popcorn Garland Making Method

  • A couple of days before you want to make your garland, pop your popcorn using your prefer method (in a pan or in the microwave). Then leave it sitting uncovered in a bowl in your kitchen for around 1 to 2 days. I know this sounds odd, but I’ve made popcorn garlands a couple of times. If you try to thread fresh popcorn then it is just too brittle, and prone to splitting in half when you pop the needle through it. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially if you are making your garland with kids. Letting it go stale means the popcorn is softer and less prone to breakage during the threading process. It’s an additional step in the garland making process, but trust me, so worth it.
  • Once your popcorn is sufficiently stale (1 to 2 days sitting on your countertop should be sufficient) you’re ready to make your garland. First start by pouring your cranberries into a bowl and composting any visibly off cranberries. You don’t want to use any that feel squishy to the touch.
  • Next cut a length of dental floss (or embroidery thread) to your required length. Make it a little longer than you’d like to allow for loss of length when you knot the ends.
  • Once cut, knot one end using a double knot. If you’re planning on using your popcorn garland on your walls or somewhere else in your house that isn’t your Christmas tree, then make a loop at the knotted end at this stage to help you out when hanging it up.
  • Thread the darning needle with the floss or thread.
  • Next, decide on a pattern (e.g. three pieces of popcorn, one cranberry and three pieces of popcorn).
  • Once you’ve decided a pattern, it’s time to start assembling your popcorn garland.  To do so, simply thread your pieces of popcorn and cranberries in the pattern that you’ve chosen.
  • Once you’ve reached the last piece of popcorn, thread it through. Now you will want to tie the floss or embroidery thread with a double knot to secure your garland. Again, if you require a loop, make one at this stage.
  • You’re done. All that’s left to do now is deck your halls (or your Christmas tree) with this pretty plastic-free and compostable Christmas decoration!

Important Notes To Consider

eco-friendly alternative to tinsel

I’ve found it best to save your popcorn garland for indoor use only. If you hang your garland outdoors then local wildlife will eat it. This is no bad thing in itself, however, popcorn offers little nutritional benefit for birds and other creatures. In winter, birds and other wildlife need highly nutritious and fatty foods, so popcorn is best to be avoided.

After Christmas is over, you’ll no doubt be wondering what to do with your garland. As it is made with natural materials it can be composted in your garden waste bin. Please note, if you use PLA-based dental floss, then do not home compost this. This needs to be composted industrially in order to fully break down.

PS: more zero-waste Christmas decoration ideas to make at home right this way, as well as my tutorial on how to dry orange slices so you can make a dried orange garland too.