When we looked into alternatives to virgin wood (tree) pulp based toilet tissue, we found that recycled paper was the most widely available option. Whilst the environmental merits of recycled paper were clear, there was no escaping the fact that the overall quality and softness of the paper was inferior, due to the reduced integrity of the fibres following the recycling process. (Hence why virgin pulp has remained such a popular choice for toilet tissue). The recycling process can also be fairly chemically intensive with de-inking agents and potentially the remnants of print chemicals such as BPA, so we felt that recycled paper was not necessarily always the best option.
Whilst researching alternative fibres, it became clear that bamboo had a lot to offer, both in its own right, and as a sustainable alternative to virgin and recycled wood pulp based papers.
- RAPIDLY RENEWABLE & SUSTAINABLE – the fastest growing plant on the planet! And it’s technically a grass, so with responsible farming, after an initial 3-5 year period to reach maturity, it can be re-harvested year after year, for as many as 40 -70 years! Compare this to trees that typically take 25-40 years to mature and once harvested cannot re-grow and a new tree must be planted.
- SKIN-FRIENDLY - It has some wonderful properties, including being naturally hypo-allergenic, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.
- NON-TOXIC - Bamboo is a naturally hardy plant with no natural pests, so it can be grown without pesticides, reducing potential exposure to harmful chemicals in the finished paper products. It also avoids exposure to chemicals found in recycled paper, such as BPA, that can be found (albeit in small quantities) in recycled tissue paper.
- OXYGEN RICH – Bamboo typically produces over 35% more oxygen than trees
- CO2 SEQUESTRATION - Bamboo can absorb as much as 12 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year, making it an important planet stabilizer.
- SOIL REGENERATOR - Bamboo can be used to ‘repair’ soil damaged from overgrazing and poor agricultural practices. It removes heavy metals and toxins from the soil, brings water to the surface and holds the soil together.
- COMBAT SOIL EROSION – Bamboo roots stay in place after harvesting, and retain nutrients for the next harvest. In contrast, soil erosion is a significant problem after trees have been harvested.
- DUST FREE – bamboo based paper doesn’t produce tissue dust, unlike some wood pulp based papers.
- DEFORESTATION SOLUTION - Bamboo requires very few nutrients to grow so it thrives in depleted soil, making it a viable solution to some of the problems associated with deforestation.
- SUPPORTING RURAL COMMUNITIES – in China, most of the bamboo is grown by rural smallholders and administrated through co-operatives, thus supporting rural development and giving farmers a sustainable income.