The largest challenge in rating this product was the lack of available information across multiple key areas. Although the right ingredients are there, and are sustainable, I need more specifics regarding the production process and who carries out this process. This is an easily fixable issues on behalf of Public Goods whereby they need to just increase their transparency. They would then need to remove plastic completely…. very easy fixes really.
Public Goods tree free toilet paper is made 30% of “sustainably sourced” bamboo and 70% sugar cane pulp. Both of these materials are classed as grasses, which is important because it means they grow back at a considerably fast rate. The primary aim here is to save the trees, and unlike trees cutting down bamboo actually promotes its growth. It is estimated that each day we use up 27,000 trees to toilet paper, globally. This means that over a million trees a year go down the toilet… quite literally.
Public Goods are shipping this product in a 100% recycled material box that does not use any ink. This is important because the company has acted in response to its old unsustainable ways whereby their old boxes were pieces of corrugated cardboard laminated with black printed sheets. These, of course, had difficulty in terms of recyclability because some recycling plants have trouble processing boxes with black ink. Their change in packing now means that the boxes are suitable for recycling everywhere and are 100% compostable. This is a success in terms of productive adaptability.
However, these toilet rolls are wrapped in plastic. Unfortunately, this is a strong negative when it comes to sustainability, largely because there are alternative materials and therefore the use of plastic is unnecessary.
Why is plastic so bad? Well, Plastics are made from unsustainable materials such as coal, natural gases, and crude oil. The production process itself is destructive, and once produced plastics can take over 1000 years to degrade on a landfill site. Definitely avoid it as much as possible and look for the alternatives such as 100% recycled paper packaging or none at all.
For this section to be rated higher, plastics will unquestionably need to go.
If bamboo is sustainably sourced it only has a “fraction of the impact that paper has on the climate” according to the NRDC (National Resources Defence Council). This is simply because it requires less land degradation than the wood pulp that is used to create paper. Astonishingly, it also emits 30% less greenhouse gases than the tissue paper generated from this wood pulp and it also grows 20 times faster than trees in northern forests.
However, it is important to maintain some caution until you have confirmed that the source of the bamboo is sustainable. One reason for this is because bamboo plantations often lack the supply chain monitoring needed and therefore bamboo is often grown in monocultures (farms where bamboo is the only substance planted). Monocultures tend to be considered as detrimental to the environment and its subsequent biodiversity because they can create complications with bacteria, insects and other organisms that need a diverse ecosystem in order to survive. Public Goods state that they use sustainable farms to source their bamboo, however, because Public Goods does not provide any information of who produces their bamboo, other than they do so in China, I am unable to analyse the specifics of the bamboo production any further.
Sugarcane pulp is gaining popularity as a sustainable alternative in packaging and household products. It is the fibre that remains once the juices have been extracted from the sugarcane plant and is an agricultural by-product with more than 54 million tons produced annually. It is a product that would decompose naturally in the environment and is also compostable. Similarly, to the bamboo, without specifics I cannot make a judgement on the sustainability of this products sugar can pulp manufacturing method. I can, however, provide you with a generalised outline of sustainable bamboo and sugar cane toilet roll production.
First of all, the sugar cane and bamboo are* ** grown* in a protected area, they are both grasses and so they do not need to be continually replanted. The bamboo is then *harvested ** *in the initial two years of sprouting. The harvested stalks are taken to a local chipping facility, found in most rural villages of china, here they are *chipped* into smaller pieces where they can be approved for transport to the larger processing plant. These pieces are placed into boiling tanks alongside the sugar cane pulp where they are *boiled ** *into a softer compound. Many sustainable toilet roll companies then have a *whitening process* that uses an elemental chlorine inplace of the traditional chlorine used in unsustainable processes. Unlike traditional chlorine this form is chemically bound to oxygen which means that it doesn't bioaccumulate. The impact of this is that living things will not absorb it, and therefore it’s better for the environment. After the whitening process, the bamboo and sugar cane pulp are *dried* and *compressed ** *into a solid form where they are then cut into transport friendly sizes. Finally, the bamboo and sugar cane are *combined*, and are then are cut into toilet roll sizes. These are most likely *wrapped* by a machine and then hand sorted into boxes for final *shipping*.
This process is overall much more sustainable and environmentally-friendlier than the process of traditional toilet roll. It uses less energy, less water and produces less carbon emissions. It also does not require destruction of trees.
There is no available information on who makes this product. Other than it is manufactured in China.
If Public Goods chose China for manufacturing for the same reasons as a fellow bamboo toilet roll producing company, Who Gives A Crap, this can be seen as a positive. One of the reasons being that in China the supply chains are unique and do not rely on importing raw materials from other countries, meaning that this product could be created as sustainably as possible. Another reason is because of packaging the products. In China it is possible for all the rolls to be wrapped in 360 sheets and packed into boxes of 24. If this was to be done by a western supplier, there would be non-flexible and automated production lines that would only consider low sheet counts wrapped in plastic. Overall, China was the best option for their product. If Public Goods used this reasoning then this section would be rated higher, they just need to be transparent and confirm that this is the case.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of transparency, this means I cannot make a balanced or fully justified judgement on this section.