The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

September 26, 2017

Who Gives a Crap Recycled or Bamboo Toilet Paper without Plastic

recycled toilet paperThe Problem:  Finding 100% recycled or tree-free toilet paper that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic.  Since 2007, my toilet paper of choice has been cardboard cases of Seventh Generation recycled rolls that come individually-wrapped in thin paper wrappers.  I ordered it from Amazon and even had a subscription at one time.  But over the years, I’ve received comments from readers that they would order a case and it would sometimes come with plastic inside.  Or that the plastic-free cases were not always available on Amazon.

A New Solution:  A few months ago, I started seeing Facebook posts about a new brand of toilet paper called Who Gives a Crap.  Funny name.  But it sounded interesting.  The company donates 50% of its profits to provide toilets and sanitation in the developing world.  The toilet paper comes in two versions, bamboo or recycled paper, and is shipped in a cardboard box.  At the time, only the bamboo version was available in the United States, so that’s what I ordered and tried.  Today, both versions are available here in the U.S.

Disclosure: Who Gives a Crap has an incentive program for all first-time customers.  If you purchase via a link in this blog post, you will receive $10 off your first order of $48 or more, and I will receive a $10 credit on my next order.  After that, you will be able to offer and receive the same deal when you share with your friends via your own special link.

Who Gives a Crap Bamboo Toilet Paper vs. Seventh Generation Recycled Toilet Paper

They both come shipped in cardboard boxes.  Unfortunately, when I first ordered Who Gives a Crap back in February, the product was new to the United States, and during that early testing phase, the company was only able to stock the smaller sized cases of 24, so when a customer placed an order for a case of 48 (as I did), they were shipped two 24-roll cases banded together with plastic straps.  The reason for the straps was to avoid paying double the cost to ship two separate packages, which makes sense.  But the plastic straps were obviously a problem for me.

Today, the sales volume has increased enough that Who Gives a Crap is able to stock both size boxes in the U.S., so when we order a case of 48, they come in one big box.

Who Gives a Crap toilet paper in cardboard box

As with Seventh Generation toilet paper, the rolls come individually wrapped in thin paper.  No plastic.

Who Gives a Crap plastic-free bamboo toilet paper

What these rolls have that Seventh Gen’s don’t is the statement, “50% of our profits are donated to build toilets.”  What that actually means is that the company donates half its profits to non-profit organizations like WaterAid working to improve access to hygiene, water and basic sanitation in developing countries. According to the company’s website, as of this writing, they have already donated $1,175,000.

So, what about the price?  As you can see in the image below, the sheets look approximately the same size.  (Seventh Gen is on the left.  Who Gives is on the right.)  Both rolls contain 500 2-ply sheets.  But Seventh Gen is sold in cases of 60 and Who Gives in cases of 48.  Doing the math based on the Amazon price tonight (which is always subject to change) Who Gives a Crap is 16% less expensive than Seventh Gen, and both prices include shipping.  Of course, if you order for the first time via my product link, you get an additional $10 off.  You can figure out that additional math.

Which one is softer?  Hands down, Who Gives a Crap bamboo toilet paper is softer.  I haven’t compared their recycled toilet paper to Seventh Gen because it wasn’t available in the U.S. when I first ordered, so this may be an unfair comparison.

Asking the Hard Questions

But what about the ecological footprint of turning bamboo into toilet paper or the fact that most recycled toilet paper contains BPA?  And how is the toilet paper so white when the wrapper states that it’s chlorine-free?  I sent a ton of questions to Phil King, head of product and sourcing for Who Gives a Crap.  It took many months for him to find time to answer my questions and for me to find time to follow up.  But we got it done.  I hope that this interview answers any remaining questions that you might have.  Ultimately, the choice between bamboo and recycled toilet paper (or any toilet paper at all) is a personal choice, and I don’t think there are any absolute right or wrong answers.

1.) Why did Who Gives a Crap decide to individually wrap its TP in paper and ship in cardboard boxes rather than using plastic?

As you can probably imagine, we’re not big fans of single-use plastics and hate to see the oodles of plastic used to wrap toilet rolls in supermarkets and most online retailers. For us, finding a way to do away with plastic wrapping entirely was a must from day one. It’s not only a great environmental choice, but we think it’s turned an otherwise boring household item into something beautiful and worth proudly displaying in your bathroom. The design aspect of our packaging is important for us as we’ve transformed something dull into something fun and shareable. This makes it natural and easy for our customers to gift our rolls and share on social media, hopefully encouraging more people to switch to a more sustainable choice!

A related question we often get asked is; ‘why wrap them at all?’. We actually need to wrap the rolls to keep them moisture free and hygienic in transit – we can’t just put them in a cardboard box unwrapped. We’ve explored a number of other options, including wrapping in larger paper bags or other configurations. However, wrapping the rolls in anything larger than 6 packs wasn’t possible due to strength issues. Wrapping in 6 packs would have required a much higher grade of paper so the net paper usage (by weight) was actually roughly the same either way.  Therefore, wrapping each roll individually in paper made the most sense, economically, environmentally and from a design perspective – so it was an easy choice for us. We’ve also increased the sheet count per roll (400 sheets for our core recycled product) which is in some cases more than four times as many sheets per roll as our supermarket competitors. It’s crazy when you think about all of the extra packaging, inner cores and inefficient shipping that we’ve saved by making our rolls longer!

2.) Can you tell me more about the paper wrappers, cardboard tubes, and cardboard boxes?  Are they made from recycled content?

The inner cores of our toilet paper and paper towels, and all our shipping cartons are made from recycled cardboard. Unfortunately for the toilet roll wrappers, we’ve been unable to get the print quality high enough using recycled paper. We use soy inks where we can, and we’re actively seeking out printers that can do this for us throughout the process.

3.) Your website says that the bamboo is grown in plantations.  Can you please describe where the plantations are and how they are overseen?

Our bamboo is predominantly grown in the Sichuan Province of China by local farmers who plant bamboo on the outskirts of their family farms to supplement their income. It’s the perfect crop in small villages – it requires no tending, irrigation or fertilisation and only needs to be harvested once a year. When harvested, bamboo is aggregated by village / regional co-operatives, chipped and then delivered to a local factory for pulping.

4.) Your website says that to make the bamboo toilet paper, “we just pulp the clean fibers at super high temperatures.” Are there any chemicals besides water needed to turn the bamboo into toilet paper?

A thermochemical process is used to convert the raw bamboo into finished paper. In simple terms, that means the bamboo is pulverised and then cooked at high temperatures to break down the fibres in the first instance. Beat that MasterChef! The broken-down fibres then go through a set of steps to isolate the fibres and, in the case of our bamboo product, whiten them using the same chemicals used to make conventional virgin wood paper, like hydrogen peroxide and chlorine dioxide. The liquid mix is then drawn onto giant drums at high speed where they re-form, bond and dry as toilet paper.

The process shouldn’t be confused for that used to make bamboo textiles and ‘non-wovens’ (used in wet wipes or nappies for instance). Those products demand a spinnable fibre (which toilet paper doesn’t) and demand different chemicals and a more intensive process – it is this process that is often where public criticism of bamboo production processes comes from, not the thermo-chemical production we use.

5.) Your FAQ says that you don’t use chlorine, inks, or dyes, which is great.  How do you turn the paper white? (Note: This question was sent in February.  The FAQ has been changed since then.)

Our toilet paper has always been elemental-chlorine free, as well as free from inks, dyes, and scents. However, we decided that the chlorine claim could be open to confusion and therefore wasn’t in line with our transparency-driven ethos – as a result, we’ve dropped the claim from our marketing.

To answer your question, it’s not possible (to our knowledge) to make a white paper product without using some form of bleaching. You actually end up with a dull beige or rather unappealing gray paper. While this might not be an issue for the most dedicated consumers, we are trying to build a hugely scalable impact business and feel that strategically it is important, and more impactful, if our products can also appeal to more ‘mainstream’ consumers for whom environmental product choices may not come as easily. We need to be able to make it easy for these consumers to make the switch to more responsible products like ours in order to grow our impact and reach our goal of helping everyone in the world access a toilet. These consumers are generally already buying toilet paper made from trees, so we know we can also have a very powerful environmental impact by switching them to a tree-free product like ours.

To answer your question about the whitening process more specifically, in the case of our recycled paper, our factory focuses on sourcing input materials that are as close to white in the first instance (to minimise the need for any whitening), and then uses a blend of hydrogen peroxide and chlorine dioxide-based detergents (commonly referred to as elemental chlorine free or ECF, so no chlorine gas is used) to remove any residual inks and dyes. Hydrogen peroxide is a naturally occurring bleaching, oxidising and disinfecting agent and is commonly used in medicine as an antiseptic – it even occurs naturally in our bodies!

For bamboo, our process is also ECF but does not involve hydrogen peroxide. We are currently going deeper into the pulping process to understand to what degree derivatives of chlorine may be present. That research includes visits upstream in the production process to plantation and pulping facilities as well as further investigations to determine whether there may be environmentally better solutions available.

6.) How is the wastewater from the papermaking process handled?

The waste water in the tissue paper making process is recycled, but it can only be used once or twice before it is then treated and returned to municipal water systems. We work with a combination of 3rd party and in-person visits to check that water is processed to local and international environmental standards.

7) Many people are wary of buying products made in China.  Can you describe how you oversee the facility where the toilet paper is made and what measures are in place to ensure that environmental standards are maintained?

We understand why people are wary about manufacturing in China – we certainly were when we started out! However, we think it’s important to stress that, like any country, China has a huge range of producers – from the very ethical to the downright shady. We’ve visited more than 100 Chinese factories and seen the full range. We’re confident that our producers are at the much more ethical and sustainable end of the spectrum or we wouldn’t be working with them. To ensure our standards are maintained, we use a combination of in-person visits and 3rd party audit and accreditation via the BSCI scheme, which has a very detailed approach and set of guidelines. Compliance by our producers is tested, audited and used to drive improvement where opportunities exist. The core philosophy focuses broadly on the areas ethics, human right and worker rights, health and safety and environment.

8) Regarding your recycled toilet paper, some people are avoid recycled toilet paper because traces of BPA have been found in it (probably due to people adding thermal paper to their paper recycling.)  Do you test for the presence of BPA in the recycled toilet paper?

We focus on paper sources which exclude thermal paper and, yes, we run regular tests to ensure that BPA is not present in our paper.

Our recycled paper options are also now available to all of our North American customers, in addition to our bamboo products. If you’re looking for the best environmental option, we recommend our 100% recycled toilet paper. The bamboo option is also a much better choice than conventional tree-full toilet paper found in supermarkets, but the overall carbon footprint is lowest with our recycled products.

9) Scott Tissues has recently released a core-less version of their toilet paper, eliminating the cardboard tube entirely.  Would this be something that Who Gives a Crap would consider in order to eliminate even more waste?  Why or why not?

Absolutely! We’re always looking for ways to improve our products’ environmental buttprint (sorry, we had to get at least one pun in here!) and core-less rolls is definitely something we’d consider.

So, what do you think?  Is this a better option than Seventh Generation from Amazon?  Have you moved beyond toilet paper to family cloth or rinsing with water?  After we use up the bamboo rolls we bought (which we still haven’t really started on, except for my test roll, because we still have so much Seventh Gen to get through), I’ll try Who Gives a Crap’s recycled version and see if I like it better.

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Fred T

I’ve been trying to find out what percentage of the WGaC paper is from post-consumer waste. The carbon footprint of post-consumer pulp is much lower than “100% recycled”, which is pretty much sawmill waste (which otherwise would have been used in wood products for construction, at least here in the US Pacific Northwest). There’s a really excellent analysis by the NRDC of environmental impacts of toilet paper at They also discuss the issues of bamboo (currently all coming from China) and the possibility that it comes from lands deforested to create bamboo plantations, with all of the climate impacts… Read more »

Jennifer May

Updated link? I so appreciate the review! I have been amazing subscribed to the Scott core free and it’s gone now. This seems like a great choice.


Hi Beth, when you have a chance, could you please update the referral code? The link is expired.



Would you mind sharing the updated link again? It has expired from this summer already. Thanks!!


This is literally the exact type of product research that I need when making sustainable choices. Thank you for digging deep into the bamboo vs recycled toilet paper. Ordering who gives a crap now! I was previously ordering seventh generation through Grove Collaborative but because I live alone and don’t need 48 rolls of toilet paper, I ended up buying the 12 pack, which came in plastic and I felt awfully guilty about it. Going for the least amount of rolls from who gives a crap now, no plastic yay!


Great article but its made in China. Shipping from China to the US seems like a huge carbon footprint and not very sustainable. Have you ever tried a water sprayer atrached to uour toilet and a small towel to dry off? I have. Its cleaner and cheaper


Great article and comparison. Glad to know that Phil King readily admits that their recycled products are more environmentally friendly than their bamboo. Been on the fence about trying a zero plastic product forever and this pushed me over the edge!
In your blog post, your referral link says for first purchase of $30 or more. When you click on that (or the updated ones below), the site says first purchase of $48 or more… Any idea how to update and/or get around that? Want to give it a try before I drop $50! Thanks!


How well do both products break down in the septic tank?


We use Tushy TP (their main product is an easy to install bidet). Bamboo, NO chlorine or bleach, NO bpa and NO plastic. They also have EXCELLENT customer service. Love love love them!


Thank you for the post! I’ve been looking for environmental-friendly toilet paper and I’m gonna give bamboo paper a try. Do you mind updating the link in the yellow box? I think it’s once again expired.


Are you still using this product and do you have an updated referral code?


How about stop using toilet paper all together? Ever given it any thought? I use very light cloth for my personal issues. Of course, not the same cloth for the face as I use for the lower half. Anytime I use it, I just rinse it out and hang it in a inconspicuous place to dry. Recently, I came to the conclusion that it was such a shame to turn a magnificent tree into something that I use to wipe the waste of my ass. I cant believe we have been doing this for years without even a second thought… Read more »

Mariette Labelle

I have a question: what about the carbon emissions from the production and especially, the shipping to the UK?


They are currently shipping to the UK by large sea freighters, according to their FAQ. They dispatch to UK and Europe from the South West and if there’s enough European demand at some point, they’ll look into more sustainable distribution options for this side of the world, such as manufacturing here for example.

Lesley Molyneux

Unfortunately their tissues come with a plastic insert in the box so the company are not plastic-free! They say it is oxy-biodegradable – needing 6-8 hours of sun and oxygen to degrade. Hardly likely to happen in a land-fill site! Disappointed.

Fay Savin

Put it outside in your garden to do it then.

Monika Wiedmann

I still would like the complicated version of how the thermochemical process works exactly.

Jeanna M

Bummer, doesn’t ship to Alaska.


Argh, exactly! I’m so disappointed.

Danielle Butts

Thank you so much for this post! I was really excited to order the Who Gives a Crap toilet paper, but unfortunately they do not ship to Alaska. It is a bummer because in your interview with Phil King he said that the recycled products are available to all North American costumers. I emailed the company with my thoughts on why they should expand their market to Alaska, although I do understand shipping can be difficult and expensive to ship here. I still think they are an awesome company and hope to buy their product soon.

Danielle Butts

Update, I got an email from the company. Because of the cost they no longer ship to Alaska and Hawaii, which is understandable. They hope to in the future though, so I look forward to that! :)


Says WGaC link (below in comments) is expired. Do you have a current one? Thanks for the great review–pushed me over the edge :)

Terrycloth Heisler

Thank you so much for the tough questions you asked. In a very nice way! Your article was extremely informative. I didn’t realize this product was made in China…which is cause for concern to me because of the abuse of China by large greedy corporations polluting their country. But your followup questions were very helpful! I will be giving this product a try and ordering it through you so you can get your 10% discount! You earned it!


I don’t know… Kinda seems like this whole article is for shit. womp womp womp…

All The Vegan Things

THANK YOU! After this awesome review, I just ordered, and set up recurring delivery. Another big step towards a plastic free home. yay!


Beth – I ordered the bamboo toilet paper and some of the paper towels. I forgot your caution about them banding multiple packages together, and sure enough, the paper towels and TP were boxed separately and shipped together with plastic bands. Is there any way to recycle or repurpose those bands? Thanks.


This sounds great, except for the whitening process. We need to ask ourselves why we need flour to be white ? Why do we need white toilet paper to wipe our bums with? I want a product free of these harsh chemicals. I’m ok with beige or gray. I’d also like one without the centre cardboard tube. That’s my wish list.


I remember when toilet tissue, facial tissues, and paper towels came in colors and patterns to match our décor. How many of our rooms are now grey/beige or the new color greige. I would welcome the change.

Judy Friedlander

I totally agree.. I never use bleach.. I have no problem using grayish or beige TP. Seriously!!! Much appreciated article… lots to have read.. haven’t figured $ yet… my reading is better than my math!!😂


I’ve been using WGaC for a few years now and recommend it! I’ve tried both versions and find that the recycled version is not as good quality-wise as the bamboo, and therefore I used it up more quickly, so I just re-order the bamboo version.


I love the Who Gives a Crap bamboo. They also offer tissues and kitchen paper rolls in Australia.

The best thing is the individual wrapping that is patterned! I re-use these as wrapping paper for small gifs and for making degradable seedling pots for my vegetable plot.


I’d like to make a more environmental switch but if I’m paying double the price for conventional toilet paper it should be chlorine free. If people are making this choice…..they want the most environmentally friendly option. Make that change and my family and I will be consumers plus production cost should drop for who gives a crap.


I’ve been using WGaC for almost a year now, and I love it. It’s no Charmin UltraSoft, but it gets the job done, and that’s what really matters. Looking at some of the comments below, I think what’s important to keep in mind is that there is always a trade off when it comes to the environment. Maybe one day, we will live in a world where there is a clear-cut decision of what the most environmental decision is, but as the world stands today, we have to choose products based on our values, whether that is using recycled materials,… Read more »


Plastic banding on the box. Not so good.


The article says they improved that and now the 48 rolls come in one big box with no plastic banding.


The chlorine dioxide (ClO2) used in the bleaching process is a toxic substance:

How is this material handled by the workers? Also, there was no explanation about what happens when the ClO2 is mixed with the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) during the bleaching process. Is hydrogen chloride gas (HCl_gas) or hydrochloric acid (HCl_liquid) produced? If so, these are also toxic chemicals: ( (

I am skeptical that this is a “green” product.


It is fairly basic chemistry – only water and oxygen are released. The chlorine dioxide stays “intact” and acts as a catalyst to split the hydogren peroxide. The oxidation coming out of the hydrogen peroxide whitens the paper.

Helene Marks

I have been buying WGaC toilet paper for just over a year now. My primary reason was that it was wrapped in paper, not in plastic. However, I have recently discovered that plastic bags are more environmentally friendly than paper ones producing approximately 4 times as much greenhouse gas as plastic. The only place where the plastic ones score more highly is in the litter consideration. This is only a problem if plastic is not disposed of correctly. I now have a dilemma. I like the fact that WGaC gives 50% of it’s profits to charities like Wateraid, but what… Read more »

Xylem Galadhon

Where do *these* statistics about paper producing 4 times more GHGs as plastic come from?! I’m sure it depends on where the paper comes from, and here’s what ‘proper disposal’ of plastic is: straight into the Earth, to never be decomposed, into eternity.

Jen M.

This was a great read! I’ve switched to family cloth, we’ve installed bidets on two of our four toilets (and will be doing the other two eventually,) and my partner uses the cloth when he’s using the bathrooms with the bidets. I haven’t sold him on the idea of wetting the cloth before doing what he needs to do yet. We keep TP on hand for guests and for him for those times when he doesn’t use the cloth. We use Tree Free brand, which we simply pick up at our local grocery’s organics aisle. Tree Free is also wrapped… Read more »


Same comment as last person. Says your link has expired. Can you update please? Thanks!


Went to order this via your link (ya I’m late) and got a message to ask you to share your link again as it was expired.


Thank you for this article. I’m going to order some WGAC bamboo paper once my current supply runs out. I’d love to use your referral link but I’m in the UK. Will it still work or do I need to find a UK based code?


Hello Naomi, I’m based in the uk and wondering if you had any luck finding the WGAC paper on line or other?


Hi there all , not sure if youve found a uk code to use , but i found one on for £5 off my first order about 3weeks ago so should be still active ?? The bamboo toilet rolls are great


I’d like to see less sinophobia in the “enviro” movement. China is doing more for environmental impacts than amerika and other western countries. They are also Marxist Leninist, so by buying products made in China, you are supporting the largest proletariat communist party in the world. If you seriously want to decrease yours and everybody else’s environmental footprint, you would be anti-capitalist and certainly anti-imperialist.


I purchased a hand held bidet washer to keep the toilet paper out of the septic system. I highly recommend one of these for that nice clean feeling.

Heather Alvis

Thank you for this thorough research on these two TPs. I took your suggestion and started with the Amazon 60 rolls, and right now we have enough to last well over 6 months, but I’m going to end my subscription and try Who Gives a Crap for the next time. I love how much thought and effort the company puts into making a great product and furthering the mission to clean up communities through toilets for developing countries.


Yes, thank you, I have always wondered why they wrap each of the rolls seperately :D

Cassandra Guerra

Thanks for this post. I have been purchasing the recycled toilet paper wrapped in paper from Natural Grocers. The price is comparable and am immediately jumping to WGAC to give it a try. We are not terribly picky over here and often make sacrifices on comfort and convenience to avoid a larger impact on the environment, so i’m sure we’ll be sticking with it. I suppose anyone reading this is here trying to do the same thing. I always appreciate the tips and shared this link with wild abandon. :)


I’m also a NYC resident and have no where to store even 24 rolls of toilet paper at a time. I’d be more inclined to buy if they had a 12 roll option


I live in Australia and I have used WGaC products for ages. I use the wrapping to wrap gifts or line my compost bin. The cardboard rolls are great for art and craft. I gift toilet paper to family and friends and what I haven’t used by my next delivery I donate to our local food security pantry. My workplace uses WGaC as do many local cafes. Customer service is excellent. I love that I can postpone a delivery if I haven’t used enough of my current stash. I receive an email asking me if I am ready for my… Read more »


Tarn, Do you prefer the recycled paper TP or the bamboo? Thx!


I’ve tried bamboo but not this brand and thought it was terrible. I ended up going back to the Costco brand of TP. Plus the rolls are larger. Most companies are shaving an inch or so off the width of their toilet paper to boost profits. Bamboo is an incredibly hard wood and getting it into these final products for consumer satisfaction is probably expensive and wasteful. Don’t ever buy clothing made of bamboo, the process of converting a hard wood like bamboo to fabric is very wasteful.


Thanks for sharing! I have started my Zero Waste journey and I this was one of the things that I have struggled to find so great recommendation! :)


I’m also a huge new fan of Who Gives a Crap! LOVE the T.P. and paper towels…. But why are they putting those plastic bands on the outside of the boxes? Ugh!


My order was the same! Two strips of plastic packaging tape on the outside of the box. What a bummer!
But still, I figure that two pieces of tape is better than a large overall plastic wrap. Will try their Premium Banboo TP next time.


I live in England and have been purchasing WGAC toilet paper for about a year now. Our box is delivered to the door without any plastic bands so it is possible.


I’m about to order some and am also in England – I wondered if you have a referral code as the one in the article above won’t work as it is for the US.


I ordered facial tissue and paper towels. They came in 2 boxes plastic-banded together, each sealed with plastic tape. Also confirming plastic windows on the facial tissue boxes.

Cheryl McGovern

End the discussion-Use a bidet!!!!! No paper needed :-)


Thanks for this article on toilet paper. I took the plunge (ha!ha!) and ordered some. I’ll let you know what we think. If this product is as good as it seems, I’ll happily share the information with others in the sustainability community and with my friends and family. Thanks!


Be aware that there is plastic in their facial tissue packaging.

Eve Stavros

Thanks for this! I’ve been buying the drugstore house brands of single, paper-wrapped rolls and was looking for a more eco-friendly in other ways option. Ordered a case of the recycled ones using your link, and was amazed by the speedy – 2-day!!! – free delivery right to my door. I’m set for a year now! Don’t know if I can get my friends to try it, but I’ll give it a shot.


Eve, using white tissue paper, stack three rolls and make a snowman… perfect winter-themed gift for hostesses, friends and family ;) (Plus there isn’t any waste and it will all be used ;) )

Dee Durham

Why do t they TRY pfferung the beige/grey and see how it goes… we switched for our coffee filters, why not t.p.? It’s a PROCESS. Gotta start somewhere…


This is such a thorough review of the toilet paper, thank you for introducing us to Who Gives a C.! I’m with Marcia. A beige or grey color wouldn’t bother me at all, but I do understand that it would bother most people. After all, we grew up with white.