Each day, 27,000 trees are flushed down the world’s toilets in the form of toilet paper. To make each roll, thirty-seven gallons of water and over a gallon of bleach, and other chemicals are used. PlantPAPER provides a sustainable solution to this problem by selling unbleached toilet paper made from FSC-certified bamboo.
PlantPAPER conducted a life cycle analysis to review its supply chain operations and develop a more complete understanding of PlantPAPER’s environmental performance of its bamboo toilet paper rolls. We calculated the potential greenhouse gas emissions associated with PlantPAPER’s manufacturing, transportation, and packaging system. From the calculations, each toilet paper roll from PlantPAPER produces 446.69 grams of CO2-eq. Manufacturing is the most carbon intensive area, followed by Packaging.
Comparing our results to leading companies that make normal and recycled toilet paper, we found that PlantPAPER produced around 55% less CO2e emissions than virgin toilet paper and 70% less CO2e emissions than recycled toilet paper.
The biggest challenges our team faced were (1) miscommunication and (2) lack of comparable data. There was miscommunication between PlantPAPER and their manufacturers due to language barrier, as it is a U.S. company based with suppliers and manufacturers in China. Moreover, since the manufacturer in China is a big facility, it was difficult for the team to obtain accurate data from some vendors and sources. In addition, it was challenging to compare our Life Cycle Analysis to other studies conducted in the industry of bamboo toilet paper. The functional unit used across were all different; hence, the result comparison is slightly skewed as it is not apples to apples.
Based on the results presented, the team provided the following recommendations to diminish their carbon footprint:
- Switch to a manufacturer with renewable energy
The manufacturing stage was the main contributor to the overall carbon footprint. The manufacturing facilities located in China are on a “dirty grid”, without much renewable energy in the mix. PlantPAPER could potentially require them to add renewable energy to the site, or switch to a more environmentally friendly manufacturing facility.
- Examine supply chain before relocating manufacturing facility
While our first recommendation was to change manufacturing facilities using renewable energy, PlantPAPER should dive deeper into their supply chain before acting. Such a modification may raise the concern of carbon emissions from other areas. For example, the transportation carbon footprint could be higher if this facility imports bamboo from China and produces toilet paper on a cleaner grid in the United States.
- Reduce inbound routes
Inbound transportation is unexpectedly the third most prominent stage of carbon emissions. We found multiple inbound shipping routes that travel back and forth between facilities. An ideal solution is to narrow down the four current routes to the one with less traveling distance. Such a modification also reduces the number of partner facilities they work with to clarify the supply chain.
- Keep current packaging
It can be concluded that while the current packaging is the second largest stage of carbon emissions, the contribution is less than 10% of the entire supply chain. One way to reduce current packaging emissions would be to forgo the double boxing that occurs with the larger DTC orders. We also recommend utilizing recycled or regenerative materials such as the current chipboard or recycled and biodegradable bamboo packaging.