Networx

Posted by Steve Graham | Jan 11, 2011

Networx Tests Recycled Toilet Paper

Recycled brands vary in strength, absorbency and can't match premium virgin paper brands.

antique toilet paper holderIf every American family replaced one regular toilet paper roll with recycled paper, we would save 420,000 trees, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. But many people won’t pay extra for recycled brands, particularly if they don’t think it works as well.

We’re here to confirm that it does work, and there’s not much difference between recycled brands. However, you will have to sacrifice some softness and quality if you are used to the premium stuff.

Experiential Test Results

The NRDC lists 17 brands of 100-percent recycled toilet paper. The group only compares the environmental qualities of the brands, but we wanted to put recycled toilet paper to real-world tests. My wife and I have been using three brands of recycled toilet paper, alongside two types of regular toilet paper with virgin fiber.

In blind tests, neither of us could tell any difference between three widely available recycled brands — Whole Foods 365, Seventh Generation and Natural Value. However, all the brands were softer and performed better than a cheaper generic brand, Valu Time. On the other hand, none of the other brands could stand up to the premium-priced toilet paper, “squeezably soft” Charmin.

Scientific Test Results

But a couple of somewhat more scientific tests showed that there really is some difference between recycled brands,  with the cheap generic stuff still rating pretty good.

To test absorbency, I dropped 0.5 ml water onto a square of paper, and measured how far the wet spot spread. Predictably, the Charmin absorbed the most water, so the spot only spread 65 mm. Valu Time was the second most absorbent. The spot spread 98 mm on the Seventh Generation recycled paper, the least absorbent brand.

To test strength, I pulled a square of paper until it ripped, and measured how far it stretched before tearing. Again, Charmin earned top marks. It stretched 12 mm before breaking. However, Natural Value recycled paper was nearly as strong. On the other hand, Seventh Generation and Whole Foods papers stretched just 5 mm before tearing.

The Data

To wrap it up in greater detail, here are the stats for our five tested toilet paper brands:

Natural Value

Roll: 250 2-ply sheets

Size: 4.2” by 4” (116.6 square feet total)

Recycled paper content: 100 percent

Post-consumer content: 80 percent minimum

Whitening process: Chlorine-free

Absorbency test: 94 mm wet spot

Strength test: 11 mm stretch 

Cost for four-roll pack: $1.99 (at Sunflower Market)

Price per square foot: 1.71 cents

Whole Foods 365

Roll: 168 2-ply sheets

Size: 4.3” by 3.66” (73.4 square feet total)

Recycled paper content: 100 percent

Post-consumer content: 80 percent

Whitening process: Chlorine-free

Absorbency test: 85 mm wet spot

Strength test: 5 mm stretch  

Cost for four-roll pack: $1.49 (at Whole Foods)

Price per square foot: 2.03 cents

Seventh Generation

Roll: 352 2-ply sheets

Size: 4.25” by 4” (166.2 square feet total)

Recycled paper content: 100 percent

Post-consumer content: 80 percent

Whitening process: Chlorine-free

Absorbency test: 98 mm wet spot

Strength test: 5 mm stretch 

Cost for four-roll pack: $3.99 (at Whole Foods)

Price per square foot: 2.40 cents

Charmin Ultra Strong

Roll: 176 2-ply sheets

Size: 4.27” by 4” (83.5 square feet total)

Recycled paper content: 0

Post-consumer content: n/a

Whitening process: unknown

Absorbency test: 65 mm wet spot

Strength test: 12 mm stretch 

Cost for four-roll pack: $3.69 (at Beavers Market)

Price per square foot: 4.42 cents

Value Time

Roll: 176 2-ply sheets

Size: 4.25” by 4” (83.11 square feet total)

Recycled paper content: 0

Post-consumer content: n/a

Whitening process: unknown

Absorbency test: 80 mm wet spot

Strength test: 8 mm stretch 

Cost for four-roll pack: $1.29 (at Beavers Market)

Price per square foot: 1.55 cents

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