ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — If you’re trying to lead an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle, and wish to leave the minimum evidence that you ever walked on Planet Earth, you may have asked yourself, which is better for the environment: flushing or throwing away my toilet paper?
In Mexican customs, for instance, throwing used toilet paper in the trashcan may be thought of as the proper method of disposal, but in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency encourages Americans to flush toilet paper.
When flushed, according to TinyCaravan, 95% of the toilet paper dissolves in water, leaving 5% to become sludge in sewage treatment plants, releasing carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas.
However, toilet paper that is thrown away in a trash can ends up in a landfill, which produces methane gas, which is more harmful than carbon dioxide. Additionally, toilet paper can take years to break down and decompose.
So, flushing is the more environmentally friendly option.
You could try an alternative solution, which may be using recycled toilet paper if you can find a brand that is BPA-free, chlorine-free, 100% recycled, and unbleached. Recycled toilet paper has a better chance of dissolving completely when flushed.
Conversely, you could use a Bidet, a device that fits onto the toilet and shoots a stream of water onto your sensitive areas. You can then dry the area with a single piece of toilet paper. Or, better yet, wipe the area with your hands, and then scrub them thoroughly with soap and water for 30 seconds before drying them with a reusable towel (this is considered proper hygiene for however you use the restroom).
However, using a Bidet is also fraught with peril, as gastroenterologist Dr. Christine Lee warns, “If bacteria or virus particles get into the water tank or on the nozzle, everyone who uses the bidet could be exposed to those germs.”
The most environmentally friendly option is switching to cloth toilet paper. It’s less wasteful, but germs and bacteria become a greater issue here, too, as Healthline warns that cloth toilet paper must be sanitized with high heat and bleach, otherwise you could become at risk for E. coli.
However, Kelly Reynolds, public health researcher at the University of Arizona, says, “This is just a risky practice, overall I think, and the potential for cross-contamination is just very high from your bathroom, where they’re stored, to your laundry room.”