World Toilet Paper Consumption, Visualised
It’s the hip paper product that will never be digitised.
American spending on it rose by $2 billion in 2020.
But experts say it’s time to put toilet paper behind us.
Paper doesn’t get you as clean as water. Faeces transmits diseases including cholera, hepatitis, E. coli, and maybe even coronavirus. More common TP-induced ailments include urinary tract infections and something bum doctors call "polished anus syndrome."
The environmental toll is massive. Logging (sorry) for the type of paper used in toilet rolls impacts over a million acres per year of precious Canadian boreal forest alone, releasing upwards of 26 million metric tons of CO2 and leaving 90% of the disturbed land barren. And that's just one source.
A lot of this deforestation supplies the luxury consumer – recycled paper isn’t as gentle on your tush. Yet 70% of the world’s population doesn’t use toilet paper at all. Big areas of southern Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia use water instead. So why shouldn’t everyone else?
QS Supplies took a long, hard look into the world’s toilet bowl – and we didn’t like what we saw. We researched the population, life expectancy, and average toilet roll usage data for countries where paper is the norm and calculated how much toilet paper the locals use in a year and a lifetime. And our visualisations below illustrate how far this paper trail would float into space and how many trees the most eager wipers are flushing away each year.
- China uses over 4 billion miles of toilet paper each year – more than any other country.
- The average Portuguese person uses 643.36 miles of toilet paper in their lifetime – more than any other nationality.
- It takes 31.11 million trees each year to supply the US with toilet paper.
- Stretched out, the UK’s annual toilet paper usage would reach to Mars and back – when Mars is at its furthest point from Earth.
Click here to view full size Click here to view full size
To the Moon & Back: National Toilet Paper Usage Visualized Across the Universe
There is only one scale big enough to visualise the annual toilet paper usage of the world’s great bottom-wiping nations: the solar system. Even Uruguay, which uses the fewest toilet rolls in our study, gets through enough each year to reach to the moon and back 21 times over. Scroll down our visualisation below to see how far into space each country’s annual TP usage goes.Click here to view full size
China’s population is over four times greater than that of the US, and the only country that’s close to having as many bottoms is India – where they prefer to use the jet spray or shower. China’s annual toilet paper mileage stretches past the most distant planet (Neptune, 2.7 billion miles) and falls just short of the beloved (and probably relieved) dwarf planet, Pluto (4.67bn miles).
However, Americans each use 141 rolls per year versus just 49 per Chinese person. So, despite a far smaller population, the US is in hot pursuit in this most unsanitary space race, falling just 48.2 million miles short of Neptune.
It Takes 31.1 Million Trees to Keep the USA in Toilet Paper Each Year
Never mind the anal fissures – deforesting for toilet paper pulp is scarring our planet. A single tree provides up to 1,500 toilet rolls per year. In the US, that’s enough for 10 people. And that’s just the big trees.
In total, 31,114,249 trees need to be felled each year to wipe America’s butt. That number of trees would cover around 18,000 sports fields (assuming you need one hectare to plant 1,667 trees).Click here to view full size
Brits Use 3,115,437 Feet of Toilet Paper Annually
Only three countries use more paper per person than the UK (127 rolls): the US (141), Portugal (137), and Germany (134). Each Brit uses 3,115,437 feet of paper in a year, requiring nearly six million trees to be chopped and pulped.
The UK packages and exports more toilet paper than it uses but imports 1.1 million tonnes of unpackaged ‘jumbo rolls’ to do so – which is why many islanders were left grasping when Brexit and Covid-19 combined to rupture the supply chain.Click here to view full size
China Chops 47m Trees for Toilet Paper Every Year
Toilet paper might not be a super-popular method in China, but locals still use enough of it to fell 47 million trees each year – more trees than any other country. That’s nearly enough to wipe out the UK government’s pledge to plant 50m trees per year.
Chinese authorities came under criticism for installing face recognition technology (at least it was face recognition) in public toilets to limit individual toilet paper use. However, this was more about saving money than saving the planet.Click here to view full size
It Takes A Forest the Size of Sydney Airport to Provide Australia’s Annual Loo Roll
What does Australia have in common with Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Sweden? Their populations each use 88 rolls per person per year. However, Australia requires the most trees to provide them: just short of 1.5 million.
Australia wipes its way across through 2.24 billion rolls each year, which stretches out to 127.5 million miles. Trail it behind you, and you’d get about halfway to Mars before you ran out of 'date roll.'Click here to view full size
It’s Time to Wipe the Slate
The kindest thing you can do for your bottom and your planet is to invest in a bidet. Sure, it uses precious water – but less than it takes to produce toilet paper. If a bidet doesn’t float your boat (because of the discomfort of 'straddling the pony' or for cultural reasons), jet sprays or simply hitting with a douche spray at the end of ‘business’ will leave you feeling clean and responsible.
Need something to occupy you on the lav? Our full world toilet paper consumption data is available in the interactive below.
Methodology & Sources
We gathered this data with desk research, searching for the average number of toilet rolls used per capita in every country in the world (full source list below).
Where data was only available in kg, we assumed the average weight of a roll of toilet paper was 227g to convert this data into rolls.
We used country population data and life expectancy data for each country from Worldometer to determine the number of rolls used per person, per year, per lifetime and for the country as a whole.
According to WorldAtlas and The Independent, an average-sized single pine tree can make around 1,500 rolls of toilet paper, so we used this estimate to determine how many trees each country needs to produce the number of toilet rolls needed for its consumption levels.
Football pitch calculations are based on Wembley football stadium, which is 68m x 105m.
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