Toilet paper is one of the most important inventions in the history of human societies. The Chinese were the first society recorded to have used paper for hygiene purposes in the 6th century CE. The Chinese were mostly responsible for the advancement in toilet paper since in the 14th century, and there was the mass manufacture of toilet paper in Zhejiang province. Apart from the Chinese, other individuals who contributed to the invention of the toilet paper include Joseph Gayetty and Seth Wheeler. Like other paper products, toilet paper is made from trees. Today, global toilet paper consumption per capita is just under 4 kilograms in contrast to North America where it is 23 kilograms per capita. It is estimated that a single tree can make 100 pounds or almost 1,500 rolls of toilet paper.
Trees and the Production of Toilet Paper
According to industry experts, a single tree can be used to make nearly 100 pounds of toilet paper with each roll weighing about 0.5 pounds. Due to the difference in the size and shape of the trees, most mathematicians prefer to use the volume of wood in calculating the number of toilet rolls that a tree can produce. Mathematicians at Utopia Mechanicus indicated that a single cubic foot of wood could produce roughly 40-80 rolls of paper. Despite the calculations, they noted that some factors could affect the mass of the wood thus changing the number of toilet paper rolls produced. One of the factors that can affect the mass of the wood is the drying of the wood which reduces its moisture content. According to engineering toolbox, when a piece of wood is dried, and the moisture content reduces by 20%, the weight reduces by approximately 50%. Another factor that affects the mass of the wood is the type of tree as different trees produce wood of different mass. Taking these factors into consideration, calculating the number of toilet paper rolls that a tree can produce is exceptionally difficult. Utopia Mechanicus estimate that a 40-foot tall pine tree that's perfectly conical and has a diameter of 1.5 feet at ground level could produce 1,440 rolls. However, perfectly conical trees do not exist as most trees have a nearly uniform width until the top when they suddenly taper off.
The Environmental Impact of Toilet Paper
Because of the significant toilet paper use around the world, a large number of trees have been cut down to produce toilet paper. The rapid rate of deforestation has had a significant impact on the global climate patterns as it leads to a reduction in the amount of rainfall in some areas. The toilet paper industry has put in place some measures to reduce the environmental impact of toilet paper production, which include the use of recovered fibers as raw materials in the production of toilet paper as well as the use of biofuels to reduce the use of carbon fuels and lower their carbon emissions.
Increases in the Use of Toilet Paper
The Worldwatch Institute indicates that the number of people using toilet paper around the world has increased significantly. The increase has been attributed mainly to the rise in western culture.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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