Greenpeace against bog roll

No, really, that\’s their latest campaign.

The tenderness of the delicate American buttock is causing more environmental devastation than the country\’s love of gas-guzzling cars, fast food or McMansions, according to green campaigners. At fault, they say, is the US public\’s insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply products when they use the bathroom.

"This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous," said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council.

"Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age. Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution." Making toilet paper has a significant impact because of chemicals used in pulp manufacture and cutting down forests.

We could go back to corn cobs I suppose, if we weren\’t already using them to make ethanol.

However, (and I\’m certainly not going to try and provide any proof of this, this is simply floating an idea) I\’m not actually entirely certain that using virgin wood rather than recycled paper is in fact detrimental to the environment.

Assume first that the trees cut down to make the bog roll are specifically grown to make bog roll from. Sounds about right to me given that just about all paper is indeed made from plantations.

Last time I looked the emissions and costs of making virgin paper were about the same as making recycled paper. In fact, using Friends of the Earth figures from a few years ago virgin slightly edged recycled.

But there\’s something else here as well: the carbon cycle.

If those woods go uncut (and unreplanted) then the trees will fall over at some point and release their carbon. Is it as methane or as carbon dioxide when wood rots?

If they are cut down and made into bog roll then they end up being flushed and then treated in sewage plants: where we collect the methane and convert it to CO2 via energy generation (or at least modern plants do).

So I cannot see that there\’s any problem with using virgin material from plantations.

Indeed, if rotting wood gives off methane in the wild (and I have absolutely no idea whether it does or not) then we might say that using virgin material to wipe our botties is a good idea: as we collect and convert the methane given off at the sewage plant.

Anyone care to set me straight here?

20 thoughts on “Greenpeace against bog roll”

  1. “This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous,”

    per person, per wipe, per dump! We could be talking about person-millenia of arse wiping.
    And many acts of hygiene only take a few seconds, but such acts have tended to add about 3 decades to a human lifespan.

  2. my son uses a yard of bog-roll every time he takes a pee, and ten foot of paper per dump. the drain keeps backing up. it costs a lot of money in toilet tissue, and tempers become frayed.
    if there was no paper produced for wiping purposes, a jam-jar full of water to wash your fingers after you clean by hand would do the trick. you would have to be resolute and not squeamish. however, the key to a clean ring-piece is a healthy diet; poo leaves little or no residue on the barking spider, the alimentary canal is maintained in good health, and trees are not felled.

  3. there could be more methane, yes, but since the great herds of bison and mammoths in europe are extinct, and africa’s fauna is going the same way, we could perhaps risk a flatulent human population. i am not advocating vegetarianism, but if there is a reduction in cattle for meat and milk we could eat the vegetation grown on land which would otherwise feed the beasts. our intake would be less, per individual, and our gaseous output would be smaller. the fields formerly full of cattle could produce potatoes, which are a good cheap staple. they offer excellent bowel movements and little flatulence, which suggests that they are in accordance with the finely-tuned human digestive system. a minimalistic bog-roll society need not be a utopian fantasy, thanks to the potato.

  4. “a minimalistic bog-roll society need not be a utopian fantasy, ”

    Brilliant ;). If that phrase is not picked up on as a Quote of the Week by someone, there is no justice.

  5. Pingback: Quote of the week

  6. The Greens have gone too far this time. They can have my carrier bag, my bulb, but they will have to take my last sheet of toilet paper from my “from my cold, dead hands”, to quote Charlton Heston.

  7. British troops in France in 1944 were given only two sheets of bog paper per day, but they had been taught an origami-like paper-folding technique to ensure that they made the best use of it.

  8. Right, so if we pop along to Greenpeace HQ and swap out their comfy-bum for the old shiny stuff (remember that?) and then get some lentil curry on in the canteen. Perhaps they’ll get the message.

  9. In the USSA, 100 % of the pulp for the production of “toilet paper” (and newsprint) is taken from tree farms consisting of fast-growing varieties which are then re-planted, The use of “virgin” is intentional to invoke visions of “old growth” forests being decimated, which is far from the facts. True, some areas of existing forests are initially cut for space to initiate the farms. But these cuttings utilize the “scrap” low-growing treees there for pulp.
    Just another “you must suffer for your sins” typical rot from Greens of whatever ilk.

  10. From memory, rotting wood in the presence of oxygen (ie in the wild) releases Carbon Dioxide and rotting wood without the presence of oxygen (anaerobic digester, landfill) gives off Methane.

    In fact, over its total lifespan, a tree sequesters no carbon dioxide at all as any CO2 used to build its trunk and branches is all released when it rots away. The only way to use trees as a permanant CO2 sink is either to keep increasing the amount of living woodland, or to chop a few of them down now and again, replacing them with new stock as required and then use the wood produced for something useful followed by burying it in a hole in the ground / bunging it in a digester of some sort. Which sounds a lot like modern forestry (and dare I say loo roll production) to me.

  11. Surely the lesson here is that we should stop processing sewage and start pouring it into landfill, where the carbon will be captured and will slowly turn into coal over millions of years.

    Using more toilet paper would then become an easy way to lower your carbon footprint!

  12. On the only occasion I have ever been caught without toilet paper in the house, the first item to hand for doing the necessary was a page from the Daily Mail; on which was printed an image of the future Duchess of Cornwall. Parker-Bowles went down the toilet bowl, I’m afraid.

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