The commercials on television attempt to sell toilet paper to consumers on the basis of softness. But from a plumbing point of view, which toilet paper is best? After all, in the long run, whatever paper is used needs to be pipe and septic tank friendly in order to keep toilets flushing and flowing.
The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) is a nonprofit organization that tests the thickness and color of toilet paper in relation to its biodegradability. Papers that pass the test carry the NSF marking which means they are safe to use with septic systems. Another environmental company, Wind River Environmental, recommends single ply paper as it breaks down better and faster in septic systems. Some toilet paper packages indicate that the contents are septic tank friendly.
Certain of the plush, extra soft brands have softening agents that may take longer to break down in a septic tank. The question of how quickly paper breaks down is an important one, and it does depend on the type of paper and its composition. It goes without saying that certain types of paper are not meant to be flushed down a toilet. Those that should not be flushed away are newspapers, magazines, letters, bills, writing paper, candy wrappers, paper napkins, and store receipts. Also included in that list would be disposable diapers, diaper wipes, facial tissues, Q tips, and feminine products. These latter products should be wrapped and thrown in a separate trash receptacle.
While most adults know only toilet paper should be thrown in toilets, in today’s society, where so many children are latch key children and not taught some basic facts of living, these obvious facts need to be covered. While it would seem that anyone living in modern society would know these things, a talk to a local janitor or plumber will convince you that a lot of things end up in toilets besides toilet paper.
The problem with anything besides toilet paper being used is that septic tanks are not designed to break down the wrong types of paper. Actually, even the fluffy, soft toilet paper requires new wood fibers to create it. These fibers can take longer to break down, plus they come from new trees that have been hewed down, rather than recycled paper pulp, so fluffy, soft toilet tissue is not as environmentally friendly. The motto is “don’t flush trees down the toilet”. Papers made with a high percentage of recycled paper are not as fluffy, but they do save trees, as 50% to 75% of the wood pulp (for the soft and fluffy kind) must come from trees recently cut down rather than recycled pulp. Recycled pulp also takes less chlorine bleach during the manufacturing process, meaning less pollution is released. Some toilet papers are made of 100% recycled paper, and these are definitely better from an environmental standpoint.
In some places, the problem toilet paper creates is recognized to be such that a receptacle is placed by the toilets and all used toilet paper is placed in the receptacles. While this may seem quite unsanitary, it is the only way to keep the meager plumbing systems alive and functioning.
The type of toilet paper to use is not a glamorous topic, yet, it is important. Millions of pounds of paper are flushed annually. It is estimated that the average American flushes 50 pounds of toilet paper a year. All this paper affects septic systems. How the paper is created affects the environment. And an ignorance of simple toilet paper “do’s and don’ts” can affect whether or not expensive plumbing repairs are required for the home, apartment, or commercial business. The proper answer is a prudent answer, and an environmentally wise answer.