The Rise and Potential Fall of Loo-Roll: A Deep Dive

6 mins read

As fears mount surrounding a rise in Covid-19 cases across Scotland, #PanicBuying is once more trending on Twitter – featuring footage of crowded aisles and emptied shelfs.

And once again, loo-roll seems to be the most desirable commodity in the UK – a Dejavú-inducing occurrence after a spring featuring sought-after rolls being sold on Amazon for up to £25 each. With the advantage of previous experience, however, many UK supermarkets have already introduced purchase-limits on certain, high-demand items: including toilet-roll. 

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Speaking to clinical psychologist Hazel Connery at Psychological Therapy Scotland, she explains that this irrational stockpiling of toilet-paper (TP), is a multifaceted fear-response.

“There are so many layers to this behaviour: essentially of which none are malevolent. It’s an attempt to control what we can in these times of uncertainty, a neurochemical stress-response of “gathering” and a result of a hyper-connected world,” says Hazel Connery. 

She stresses the negative effect of social media on collective behaviour in society, as she believes seeing footage of other people stockpiling essential items being spread online, is a huge catalyst spurring the trend on. 

“I don’t think this problem would have been as severe had it not been for social media amping up the feeling of panic in people,” she says. 

Credit: Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

So, apart from being the source of fist-fights at grocery stores nation-wide as sales soared with 64 per cent this spring, what role does this self-acclaimed butt-saver play in our world?

Fittingly, quite a polluting one. Every single day, 27,000 trees are estimated to be felled for TP production. And although it is one of the only materials we can get away with only using once, it is not the only option. 

Today, TP is in the Western world deemed an unquestionable household essential. But this has not always been the case. Throughout history, humans have used a myriad of obscure items to clean up their business, such as shells, corn cobs and pottery shards

But the oldest, most efficient way to wipe is using nothing but water. That is a fact which Ahmad Abuleil, Founder of Boss Bidets strongly stands by.

Image by Martin Str from Pixabay


“I think, when you feel clean, you feel comfortable and when you feel comfortable, you feel confident. That is the number one thing a bidet provides: The feeling of a properly clean slate,” says Ahmad Abuleil.

He goes on to point to the environmental benefits of using a bidet rather than primarily relying on toilet roll. 

“When I use a bidet, I use less toilet paper, saving both trees and money – it’s a win-win situation,” says Ahmad Abuleil. 

It is estimated that the average Brit gets through 127 loo-rolls every year. That brings the UK total to 13 million tonnes of paper-waste per year getting dumped down the drain. Adding the large amount of water and energy required during production, TP is on a rapid decline along the sustainability-thermometer. 

Now, you might ask yourself if a bidet with all its fancy water-spraying actually is better for the environment than good old TP. With a single roll needing more than 37 gallons of water to manufacture, the answer is an all-encompassing: yes. 

Other alternatives that include less of a lifestyle change, yet still receives a higher ranking on sustainability, is rolls made from recycled material. These range from bamboo and sugarcane-waste, to old textbooks and office papers. 

In the UK, Eco Leaf has been ranked the eco-friendliest loo-roll on the market by Beeco, a media platform promoting sustainable alternatives for everyday products and services. Other green alternatives include Who-Gives-A-CrapMarcal’s recycled paper and Cheeky Panda bamboo toilet paper.

Credit: Aine Donnellan

So, this seemingly insignificant household product that became the talk of town last spring is more than just paper. It is culture, it is environmentally unsound in it’s main-stream form and it is not the only option. 

As we move towards a second lockdown, the TP industry have geared up for a second spike in demand. Swapping to a sustainable cousin of the commercial rolls would flatten out this expected curve and bring a smile to Great Thunberg’s face. The choice is yours: bidet as it may.

Featured image credit: Image by lyperzyt from Pixabay

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