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Price of Toilet Paper for the Planet

Toilet paper is a quiet giant in the global economy: though it rarely makes headlines, demand for the fluffy white stuff has steadily risen over the past few decades, and more than 18 million tons were sold in 2010.

Paper Weight

Every ton of toilet paper produced requires about 1.75 tons of raw fiber. The amount of wood harvested annually may need to triple by 2050 to meet projected global demands for all industries—including pulp and paper.

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Shady Origins

Fifty percent of the fibers used to produce pulp for tissue goods come from recycled sources. Natural forests, plantations and tree farms supply the other 50%—and it’s often difficult to trace those virgin fibers to the specific forests they came from. The toilet paper you buy in a US grocery store, for example, could have been made with pulp from Brazil, Chile, Canada, Europe or Southeast Asia.

Uneven Impact

Deforestation in Brazil, which is driven by demand for wood and agricultural products, has declined by almost 80% since 2004. In Indonesia, meanwhile, deforestation has roughly doubled over the last decade—and most of that increase is driven by pulp and paper and palm oil production.

30 pounds

Average amount of toilet paper used by Americans per capita in a year. That’s roughly 130 rolls. The US is the world’s biggest buyer of toilet paper.

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Quid Pro Quo

Brazil’s pulp and paper industry uses 5.4 million acres of planted forests, which were established on land that had been previously cleared for other purposes. And for every acre of forest used, about 1.3 acres have been restored or preserved in the country.

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Lost Treasure

Sumatra is an ecological metropolis: the Indonesian island’s forests shelter 580 bird species and more than 200 mammal species, including critically endangered Sumatran tigers and elephants. But more than half of those forests have disappeared since 1985, and US markets have recently seen an influx of products made with fibers from Sumatran trees.

The Forest and the Trees

If you’re not sure where the toilet paper in your grocery store, school or hotel comes from, ask the management or call the manufacturer—and make sure they offer FSC®-certified products. FSC certification, the most rigorous such program available, ensures that forests are well managed, habitats are protected and local communities’ rights are respected.

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World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

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