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The Great Toilet Paper Scandal

Have these UK eco-friendly toilet paper brands been greenwashing?

Written by Charlie Gill | Average reading time: 5 minutes

Did you switch to bamboo toilet paper to reduce your impact on the environment? Me too. But it seems like we might not have been receiving quite what we expected.

The consumer watchdog, Which? recently undertook a study to determine whether five of the UK’s leading eco-friendly toilet paper brands really were made of bamboo. The results were, to say the least, shocking.

Why should we use eco-friendly toilet paper in the first place? It might not seem like a big deal, but the truth is, the toilet paper industry is a major contributor to deforestation. Most toilet paper you see at the supermarket is made from virgin wood, which leads to biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and ecosystem disruptions.

35% of harvested trees are used to manufacture paper products, including toilet paper. That's a lot of trees getting the chop for our bathrooms. Marketed as the perfect alternative, bamboo toilet paper was supposed to be the saviour as it’s a fast growing plant that uses minimal water. But it appears that, all might not be as it seems.

The results

The recent report by Which? uncovered that some of the brands it tested weren’t made from 100% bamboo as they claimed to be. In tests conducted in November 2023 by an independent lab, it was revealed that three of the samples claiming to be made from 100% or majority bamboo actually contained shockingly low levels of bamboo fibres.

Toilet Paper Brand % Bamboo in Sample Other Fibre Found
Who Gives A Crap 100% -
The Cheeky Panda 100% -
Bazoo 26.10% 73.9% hardwood (eucalyptus 68%, acacia 23%, populus 9%)
Naked Sprout 4% 68.6% hardwood (eucalyptus 100%), 26.5% softwood
Bumboo 2.7% 88% hardwood (eucalyptus 59%, acacia 28%, populus 8%, birch 5%), 9.2% softwood

For three out of the five brands, their toilet rolls weren’t made primarily of bamboo but rather virgin hardwoods. They contained eucalyptus which is often sourced from South America, and Acacia often associated with deforestation. As eco-conscious consumers, this wasn’t what we were expecting.


Eco-friendly bamboo toilet paper brands

How have the brands responded?


In a scripted video response as well as a fairly short written statement, Bazoo admitted that while their entire supply chain is audited by the Forest Stewardship Council, there was contamination in a batch that did in fact contain wood pulp. To rectify the situation, they are in communication with FSC and will be implementing stricter quality control measures and more frequent testing.

Naked Sprout

In a much longer and descriptive response, Naked Sprout reported several issues with the Which? test itself as well as a lack of reporting on information they had provided the reporters with.

The summary of their response is:

  1. Their bamboo product is made from bamboo only and their supply chain verification proves it
  2. Their entire supply chain is FSC certified and they have had confirmation from the FSC that there have been no issues identified with their pulp suppliers.
  3. They don’t use the TAPPI T 401 test, because it’s not suited to our unbleached bamboo products.
  4. Which? refused to share a copy of the test results so they are unable to interrogate the results and how they came to their conclusion.


Bumboo provide a full timeline of events since they discovered that a small number of their products did not fulfil their 100% bamboo standard even though certified by FSC. They were quick to take accountability for the problem including pledging to test every batch, reporting the tests on their website, and providing impacted customers alternative options.

Each of these brands point to the fact that they are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and therefore they trusted that their products were made from bamboo. Yes, the FSC is the leading certification for wood products but unfortunately this does not mean that the products will be sustainable. There have been many scandals surrounding the FSC certification, not least that factories are only checked once yearly, not nearly often enough.

There’s no doubt that there were good intentions behind each of these brands. This scandal highlights the needs for extra checks and balances so we can trust in their marketing. It’s not enough to rely on the FSC certification.


Toilet paper roll

What are the alternatives?

Two brands, Who Gives A Crap and The Cheeky Panda both tested for 100% bamboo in their rolls. While their rolls in this test may have contained 100% bamboo, issues with the FSC certification and the responses from the brands impacted, make me wonder whether this could happen to them too.

The alternative of recycled toilet paper seems to be a better option. Post-consumer paper like newspapers and cereal cartons can be recycled into toilet paper in Europe. By recycling rather than using a new plant, these recycled toilet rolls use less water, waste and less transport emissions.

While full-cycle carbon emissions work out similarly, there are many benefits of using material that is already in use, like recycled paper. Both Serious Tissues and Honest Supplies specialise in recycled toilet paper, though options are also available at Who Gives A Crap and Naked Sprout. Find all of our toilet paper suggestions in this article, along with a price comparison table.

So, where does this leave us? Are we being greenwashed into making unsustainable choices? While these issues may not have been intentional, it still raises questions as to how trusting we can be of environmental claims on websites.

Greenwashing might not always be as apparent as we might think. Even if unintentional.


Did you enjoy this blog? You might be interested in reading:


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Video Transcript - Accessibility

We've been conned by those eco-friendly toilet brands that we've all been relying on. Well, they've been pulling the wool over our eyes. It's greenwashing at its finest, pretending to be eco-friendly when really it's just a facade. Hi, I'm Charlie, and I talk about living a realistic Eco lifestyle. If that's something you're into, hit subscribe, and now let's dive into this outrage. Today, we're talking about toilet paper. Half of the world uses it, but there are some ways that it can be more sustainable. When you're an eco-conscious person, the first thing you look for is what that toilet paper is made from. And the big no-no is virgin wood. Thirty-five percent of harvested trees go on to make paper products, including toilet paper. Where possible, you should always try to avoid anything made from virgin wood, i.e., wood that literally comes from the tree. Toilet paper from virgin wood is a major cause of deforestation, soil erosion, all of that. So where we can avoid chopping down trees, we should. Bamboo toilet paper, on the other hand, was marketed as a great alternative as it comes from bamboo, one of the fastest-growing plants that doesn't need that much water. And yes, when bamboo is used, it can be good, as long as you look for their FSC certified bamboo. The Forest Stewardship Council or FSC certification promotes responsible forestry practices to ensure sustainable management of forests worldwide. The slight issue is that some of these forests actually aren't that sustainable. I did a recent video on FSC and other Eco labels; you should check that out if you want to find out more. Now let's get on to where this greenwashing has come from. In November last year, an independent lab tested five different toilet rolls available in the UK that were marketed as 100% bamboo. All of these brands market themselves as eco alternatives, and consumers like me, and probably you, look for brands like this, thinking that they're the ones that have done all of the research. They're marketing themselves as eco-friendly, so they must be the better option. Well, that's not the case. The results of three of the toilet rolls that were tested came back with low to basically no bamboo in their bamboo toilet rolls. Bazoo contained only 26.1% bamboo, Naked Sprout contained 4%, and Bumboo had only 2% bamboo. The lab used an industry-standard test to run these analyses, and instead of bamboo, they found other materials in the toilet roll. And do you know what that other material was predominantly? Virgin hardwood. This was predominantly eucalyptus, which is used a lot in those virgin toilet rolls. And unfortunately, eucalyptus has been linked to deforestation in Indonesia and other places. So giving these companies the benefit of the doubt, maybe there is a problem in their supply chain. All of these are coming from China, and obviously, that's far away from the UK, so maybe there was a bit of a mix-up. My main takeaway though is that I'm shocked. I think shocked is actually not a strong enough word, like I'm appalled. These companies are the exact type of company that you look for as an eco-conscious person. You want to find the best option, the best sustainable option to use, and instead, it's virgin wood. You could have gone to your local supermarket and purchased a recycled paper toilet roll, and that would be better. As customers, we literally go out of our way to go on the website, do the research of the different brands, and purchase there when it's normally more expensive, but you think you're doing the right thing and also supporting social causes and donating and all that kind of thing. When the product that you're actually receiving is not what you were told that it was. Their responses did give them the benefit of the doubt to see what their response was because they, like you and me, might be equally shocked to find out that that's what was in their toilet rolls. First up, Bazoo, this is the brand that had 26.1% of bamboo within their toilet roll, and this is what they said. So their toilet rolls are FSC certified and they undergo testing on a usual 6-month basis with FSC. Their manufacturer is 100% FSC certified, and they're currently investigating with the FSC body and the manufacturer. This doesn't really surprise me because having done research into FSC, it's often that there are flaws within this system, and it could quite likely be that wood is coming in, and they can't really demonstrate that that particular wood is being used for that product. Just having a certification doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be sustainable. Next up, Naked Sprout. So Naked Sprout bamboo toilet roll had 4% of bamboo in it. Like Bazoo, they say that their product is fully audited by FSC, as it's also FSC certified, and it's fully traceable from raw material to end product. The problem with that though is that there was only 4% bamboo in their toilet roll. They say that there are some limitations with the test that was done, and so that they dispute the result. Personally, if I was the brand owner, and I'd discovered that, I'd be doing everything in my power to find out if my toilet rolls weren't actually made from what I said they were. So not really sure how I feel about that response. And Bumboo, who came in at 2.7% bamboo, they say that there was an issue with their supply chain, and that it won't happen again. When you see all of these three brands have this limited amount of bamboo in their product, it does make you worry about what actually is going on in these factories. And can you trust these FSC certifications? Can you trust that it's coming from bamboo when places are so far away? It can be hard to monitor that for sustainability practices, but then again, that shouldn't be on the consumer. That should be on the company and the certification to ensure that what is being produced is what it says it is. While they might not have been doing it intentionally, why did it take this report to uncover it? It's a unique selling point, it's their key selling point. Why would they not have 100% made sure that that was accurate? What about all the paper that consumers have already purchased? It's just peak greenwashing, and it makes it really difficult to trust any environmental claims. It also highlights more issues with the FSC certification, and to be honest, at this point, I feel like FSC doesn't mean anything.There is some good news that comes from the test. Two of the brands that were tested did contain 100% bamboo like they advertise. Those are Cheeky Panda and Who Gives a Crap toilet paper. Both contain 100% bamboo. However, there are other alternatives too. Rather than using a bamboo toilet roll, why not use a recycled toilet roll instead? Both Serious Tissues and Honest Supplies both use post-consumer recycled paper as toilet rolls. So rather than using bamboo, which is a new plant anyway, you're using something that was recycled. I often think that we put a lot of emphasis on recycling things but then not using the recycled product. That's how recycling works. If you don't use what you're recycling, then there's no point in recycling it in the first place. So over to you, how do you feel about this? Do you feel cheated? Will you be buying from them again, or are you going to give them the benefit of the doubt that it happens to everyone, and maybe there were issues with the supply chain? Do you think that you could ever trust them again? If you enjoyed this video, hit subscribe and follow along for more examples of greenwashing. Until next time.

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