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.
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.
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.
- Aldi Recycled Toilet Paper
- Bumboo Toilet Paper* – 48 pack (please note, unwrapped versions are available)
- Cheeky Panda Toilet Paper* – 48 pack
- Ecoleaf Toilet Paper*- 9 pack
- Essential Trading Toilet Paper* – 4 pack
- Greencane Toilet Roll – 48 pack
- Morrisons Recycled Toilet Roll – 4 pack
- Naked Sprout Toilet Roll – 48 pack
- Oceans Toilet Roll – 45 pack
- Sainsbury’s Recycled Toilet Paper – 9 pack
- Serious Tissues Toilet Paper* – 36 pack
- Traidcraft Recycled Toilet Paper* – 4 pack
- Waitrose ECOlogical Toilet Paper – 9 pack
- Who Gives A Crap Recycled Toilet Paper – 48 pack
- Who Gives A Crap Bamboo Toilet Paper – 48 pack
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:
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.
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.
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.