In the world of lavatories and powder rooms, there is one component that is deemed to be the most necessary in them all: toilet paper. But is that the case when there are bidets? In the ongoing debate over which way of waste management may be more effective or efficient, let’s take a look at the environmental trails each method may leave. Which is the better bathroom choice?
It’s no doubt that toilet paper is the standard clean-up choice that many tend to go for due to it being relatively cheap and convenient. On the other hand, bidets are deemed to be more hygienic as its small streams of water are more effective in “rinsing off leftover fecal matter”. However, which is more environmentally friendly in the end?
Although toilet paper is commonly made from “chemical pulp”, it’s no surprise that most of it is just well… paper. And for most, it doesn’t come as a surprise when - given the rate of production toilet paper companies are at these days - it is revealed that toilet paper production does consequentially lead to deforestation. There are different types of paper used in production including recycled paper, those derived from hemp plants, and virgin tree pulp. On the surface, toilet paper looks bad; it has a severe impact on the environment but with further thought, since it’s made from natural materials, wouldn’t it be biodegradable? And isn’t being biodegradable a good thing? Not necessarily, in this case.
Being biodegradable doesn’t apply to the fact that toilet paper is a single-use paper product and hence is short-lived. It’s not sustainable. As a result, it releases its remaining carbon to the skies and our atmosphere. Carbon emissions are also released from the constant manufacturing and transporting of the paper products. Since the paper needed for toilet rolls are normally attained from a method called clear-cutting (a form of logging), toilet paper-driven emissions can go up to 26 million metric tions. For decades, clear-cutting can leave scars and bruises on forests and lands for decades, rendering it barren. At this rate, emissions can go up to 40 million metric tons by 2030. Referencing the Environmental Paper Network, toilet paper has three times the climate impact as toilet paper using recycled materials. With just one roll of toilet paper, 37 gallons of water is used up.
That is a different case with bidets. Bidets only use one eighth of a gallon per use.
Unlike toilet rolls, bidets uses 1.3 gallons of water every week; they also don’t use trees. Using a bidet can lower your environmental footprint greatly and helps in conserving both trees and water. However, it is important to note it isn’t fully zero-waste either.
If bidets are able to save 384 trees, then why aren’t people adapting them? The answer is this: it’s not as accessible as we want it to be. If you think about it, bidets are - sort of - stigmatized. People avoid them because they simply don’t trust them. A lot of consumers aren’t used to using a bidet and their doubts have became excuses over time. Bidets are also not very accessible. Sanitary systems and water availability around the world may not be safe enough and although cheap for the average household, the bidet is not the preferable bathroom choice for the poorer homes.
It’s important to occasionally debate over the pros and cons of toilet paper and bidets, but at the end of the day, we have to ponder as to how are we going to take action? Governments need to consider the transition towards a more sustainable sanitation system and making sure more families are able to gain access to sewer lines. We can start supporting and reading on projects that are securing safe, clean and healthy sanitation for communities and begin adapting environmentally friendly methods of waste management ourselves too whether it may be purchasing a sustainable toilet paper brand or switching to a bidet. Either way, let’s not allow our world to be washed away with a single flush.