One Toilet Paper Company Decides to Ditch the Tube

Photo: Stephen Messenger

In an attempt to cut down on consumer waste, one toilet paper manufacturer has unveiled perhaps the biggest change the product has undergone in over a century -- replacing that old cardboard tube with, well, nothing. If the advancement in TP technology seems unremarkable, consider just how much waste it will keep from the landfill. Each year, a million miles worth of cardboard tubing is tossed out -- that's enough to circle the Earth over forty times.Seinfeld's George Costanza once pointed out how little TP has progressed over the decades. "Do you realize that toilet paper has not changed in my lifetime? It's just paper on a cardboard roll, that's it. And in ten thousand years, it will still be exactly the same because really, what else can they do?" On that last point, he was wrong.

Kimberly-Clark, the company which produces Scotts toilet paper, will begin testing its oddly revolutionary Tube-Free TP next week in Walmarts and Sam's Clubs across the North-eastern US. Depending on how well it's received, soon the trend might spread globally.

According to a report from USA Today, while it may seem fairly innocuous, Americans have been tossing out a lot of those cardboard tubes each year -- and it really adds up.

The 17 billion toilet paper tubes produced annually in the USA account for 160 million pounds of trash, according to Kimberly-Clark estimates, and could stretch more than a million miles placed end-to-end. That's from here to the moon and back -- twice. Most consumers toss, rather than recycle, used tubes, says Doug Daniels, brand manager at Kimberly-Clark.

A consumers demand for less wasteful products is apparently what has driven the toilet paper maker to update a product which has gone without any major improvement since it was invented over 100 years ago. "We found a way to bring innovation to a category as mature as bath tissue," says Daniels.

While the new tubeless rolls won't always be perfectly round, they'll have no problem fitting on standard toilet paper spindles -- and they can be used to the last square. The trick is in the special winding processes, but the company is keeping their technique a secret.

With any luck, soon other toilet paper manufactures will get on board with less wasteful alternatives to the tradition roll, whether it be by using more recycled material or ditching the cardboard tube altogether. And, as consumers demand more eco-friendly products, perhaps more manufacturers will continue to find more ways to cut unnecessary materials from the things they sell.

And who knows, maybe one day people will have conversations like this about us.

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Tags: Bathrooms | Cardboard | Environmental Footprint | Green Packaging | Waste