WASHINGTON – A new report takes the largest tissue companies to task for destroying North American forests and exacerbating the world’s climate crisis. “The Issue with Tissue” reveals Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, and Georgia-Pacific use zero recycled content in their at-home toilet paper, instead relying on ancient trees clear-cut from the Canadian boreal forest (the “Amazon of the North”). The report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Stand.earth includes a scorecard grading the sustainability of toilet paper and other tissue products. The average American uses three rolls of toilet paper a week—and major brands’ refusal to create more sustainable products makes consumers unwittingly complicit in flushing forests down the toilet.
This destructive “tree-to-toilet pipeline” does massive harm to Indigenous Peoples and iconic species like the boreal caribou and Canada lynx. Canada’s boreal forest also stores nearly two times as much carbon as is in all the world’s recoverable oil reserves combined. Toilet paper and tissue manufacturers continue to rely on forests even though they have the resources and means to create and deliver products with recycled and responsibly sourced content that are better for the planet.
The NRDC/Stand.earth report features a sustainability-based scorecard for at-home tissue brands, assigning “F” grades to such leading U.S. toilet paper brands as Charmin, Quilted Northern, and Angel Soft. Brands using recycled paper content, including 365, Seventh Generation, and Natural Value were among those awarded “A” grades in the report. The NRDC/Stand.earth scorecard also ranks facial tissues and paper towels.
Anthony Swift, director, Canada Project, NRDC, said: “Most Americans probably do not know that the toilet paper they flush away comes from ancient forests, but clear-cutting those forests is costing the planet a great deal. Maintaining the Canadian boreal forest is vital to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.”
Charmin, the nation’s leading toilet paper brand made by Procter & Gamble, is specifically called out for refusing to increase its use of recycled materials.
Shelley Vinyard, report co-author and boreal corporate campaign manager, NRDC, said: “We’re calling on Procter & Gamble, as the maker of America’s leading toilet paper brand, to stop flushing forests down the toilet. Procter & Gamble has the innovation resources to bring Charmin into the 21st century; the question is whether the company will embrace its reputation as an innovator to create sustainable products using recycled material instead of clear-cut trees.”
Deputy Grand Chief Mandy Gull, Cree Nation, said: "As Indigenous Peoples in the boreal forest, we live on the food from our land. The forest is our supermarket, with aisles of berries and meats and fish. My hope is that, once people know that their choice of tissue will determine whether food will be there for us tomorrow, they will help protect our homelands by switching to recycled and responsibly sourced products."
The Canadian boreal is a vast landscape of coniferous, birch, and aspen trees. It contains some of the last of the world’s remaining intact forests, and is home to over 600 Indigenous communities, as well as boreal caribou, pine marten, and billions of songbirds. The loss of intact boreal forest is impacting Indigenous Peoples’ ways of life and driving the decline of caribou and other species.
Tzeporah Berman, director, International Program, Stand.earth, said: “As a Canadian, I am horrified that Charmin and other leading brands are making toilet paper out of trees clearcut from ancient boreal forests. These forests are some of the most important intact ecosystems left on earth—they are the breeding grounds for the majority of North America’s songbirds and home to threatened species such as boreal caribou—and we are flushing them down the toilet?”
Fortunately, solutions to the tree-to-toilet pipeline already exist. Instead of relying on virgin fiber from ancient forests, tissue companies can use recycled content or sustainably sourced alternative fibers. Use of these materials to create tissue can dramatically reduce our destructive impact on the boreal and other forests in North America and around the world.
The NRDC/Stand.earth report reveals that “the United States is a particularly voracious consumer of tissue products. The U.S. tissue market generates $31 billion in revenue every year, second only to China, and Americans, who make up just over 4 percent of the world’s population, account for over 20 percent of global tissue consumption.”
NRDC and Stand.earth are calling on Procter & Gamble and other toilet paper and tissue manufacturers to shift to recycled content and sustainable alternative fibers, and to take additional steps to ensure their supply chain is fully protective of boreal caribou habitat and respects Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their lands. Now is the time for action to mitigate the climate crisis and protect the world’s remaining forests, rather than flushing our vital forest ecosystems away.
- The Issue with Tissue: How Americans Are Flushing Forests Down the Toilet (Report)
- The Issue with Tissue: How the U.S. Is Flushing Forests Away (Blog)
- Audio recording of February 20, 2019 news event:
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
Stand.earth (formerly ForestEthics) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with offices in Canada and the United States that is known for its groundbreaking research and successful corporate and citizens engagement campaigns to create new policies and industry standards in protecting forests, advocating the rights of indigenous peoples and protecting the climate. Visit us at www.stand.earth and follow us on Twitter @standearth.