What is PlantPAPER made out of?

The rolls we’ve launched with are made of sustainably, organically grown bamboo pulp harvested in China. Bamboo is one of the world’s fastest growing plants, capable of growing up to three feet in 24 hours. It requires little water, no fertilizer and regenerates on its own after cutting. The more regularly it’s harvested, the faster it grows.

We’re thrilled with the way bamboo performs in PlantPAPER, both from a human health and environmental perspective—perspectives that are always two sides of the same coin. But bamboo isn’t the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to plant materials suitable for making toilet paper. Expect ever lower-impact, more innovative sources of paper pulp in the months and years to come.

Why do you call yourself PlantPAPER?

To distinguish ourselves from tree paper. Technically speaking, trees are plants, but the plants that make up PlantPAPER are most definitely NOT trees. They belong instead to the true grass family, or poaceae, a family of plants characterized by long, slender leaves and hollow stems. Unlike trees, most grasses reach their full height in a single growing season.

What’s wrong with toilet paper made from trees?

Using trees to make toilet paper is an ecological catastrophe. You’ve probably seen the statistic that 27,000 trees are cut down per day to make toilet paper–a big number to be sure, but what does it mean? Any tree is better off left standing than flushed down the toilet, but not all trees–and not all forests–are created equal.

Most toilet paper sold in the U.S. and Canada contains a significant percentage of pulp derived from old-growth virgin trees found in the Canadian Boreal Forest. This forest, which spans Canada (and the rest of the northern hemisphere) just below the Arctic circle, is the world’s most important carbon sink, storing more carbon than all the world’s gas, coal and oil reserves combined, and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere equivalent to the annual emissions of 24 million passenger vehicles.

The effects of clear-cutting such forests are staggering. Clear-cutting of the Canadian Boreal Forest releases 26 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. While portions of this forest are replanted, even those that adhere to FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) regulations can take more than 100 years to return to their original state, and many never do. Old growth forests are one of the planet’s most important bulwarks against catastrophic climate change, but they have come under sustained assault by the tree paper industry, victims of the tree to toilet paper pipeline.

This is to say nothing of the impact on indigenous communities in the Boreal region, of which there are over 600, or of wildlife populations–caribou, marten, lynx, and migratory birds in particular–whose numbers have declined precipitously in the last 25 years as their habitats have shrunken or disappeared.

Tree paper is equally alarming from a human health perspective. It isn’t easy turning big, old trees into soft, fluffy paper. In fact, it takes over a gallon of chemicals per roll, including bleaching agents, formaldehyde, and handful of known carcinogens. While these chemicals are present in amounts that don’t exceed current FDA regulations, an ever-expanding body of research indicates that toilet paper made with such chemicals is the cause of urinary tract infections, vulvar irritation, hemorrhoids, and a host of other maladies we’d all prefer to avoid.

Despite the ubiquity of toilet paper in our lives, there’s only a small handful of companies who actually produce the stuff. As a result, they hold outsize decision-making power over what products we introduce into our most precious environments, a power they have wielded irresponsibly for far too long.

Why isn’t the toilet paper white?

PlantPAPER is TCF--Totally Chlorine Free. Until recently, almost all toilet paper was made with chlorinated bleach. In the last few years, as the damaging effects of bleach on our bodies and the environment became harder to ignore, some toilet paper companies have switched to an ECF process--Element Chlorine Free. This is a marginal improvement over previous methods, but Elemental Chlorine particles are still produced in the process, and ultimately find their way into our waterways and bloodstreams. PlantPAPER contains no dyeing agents of any kind; the off-white color of our paper corresponds to the natural color of the bamboo pulp.

Why is PlantPAPER better than recycled toilet paper?

Recycled is a big improvement over paper made from virgin tree pulp. It uses less water, less energy, and fewer chemicals. The higher the post-consumer recycled content, the better the paper--for the environment.

But our bodies are another story. Post-consumer recycled toilet paper is known to contain small amounts of bisphenol-A and bisphenol-S, better known as BPA and BPS—likely the result of the presence of thermal receipts in our paper recycling streams. While these BPA levels are generally under legal limits, we wanted a toilet paper that was entirely BPA-free.

Why is this toilet paper better than regular white bamboo toilet paper?

We’ve spent the last three years working with different manufacturing partners in search of the right combination of ingredients, density, ply and other variables to deliver the strength and we wanted in our paper, while keeping additives to a bare minimum. The result is a product that is stronger and silkier than any other paper we’ve tried.

What’s the deal with the dotted matrix?

We felt the pattern with which PlantPAPER was embossed should be about more than just decoration. We wanted it to actually improve performance. Through trial and error, we recognized that a pattern of dimples running continuously across the surface of the paper helped make the paper grippier, meaning we got more out of each wipe and ultimately used fewer sheets. On the flip side, the debossed side of the paper (the one facing outwards on the roll) is extra silky and soft.

Why do you use plastic packaging?

The plastic used in the PlantPAPER packaging has been treated with d2w, mineral salts that allow the plastic to break down into organic material over time. There’s been some debate about how well d2w actually works, particularly in the EU, where single use plastics have (rightly) been banned. Clear answers aren’t easy to come by, since most of the research that has been done is funded by industry groups who have lots of money at stake.

We’re currently developing an alternative packaging solution, and if all goes according to plan, PlantPAPER will be largely plastic-free by the end of 2019.

We could have delayed the launch of PlantPAPER until we had a more perfect solution, but we made the decision to launch with d2w because, when it comes to breaking the senseless addiction to tree paper, there’s no time to lose.

How does the d2w work?

The mineral salts added to the plastic break down the molecular chains within the polymer, allowing the plastic to self-destruct in the presence of oxygen on land or in the water. As it degrades, it leaves no heavy metals and—importantly—does not emit methane. The material is converted into water and humus by naturally-occurring bacteria and fungi, thus completing the material’s life cycle.

What should I do with the biodegradable plastic packaging?

Oxo-biodegradation does not require elevated temperatures or light, though they will accelerate it. It can also be recycled with normal plastics or incinerated for energy-recovery.

Is the toilet paper ok for my septic system?

Yes. PlantPAPER breaks down easily in septic systems.

To see for yourself, try this test at home:

  1. Put 4 squares of PlantPAPER in a mason jar.
  2. Fill the mason jar ¾ full.
  3. Put back on the lid and shake heavily for 10 seconds.
  4. If the paper has broken down into small pieces (it will!), it’s septic-safe.
Can I order to Canada?

Yes, but the shipping costs are higher than we want them to be. To most parts of Canada, 36 rolls delivered will cost $75. We’re aim to bring these costs more in line with our US prices by the end of August 2019.