Is this Clean?

I believe the biggest issue with tissue can be summed up nicely in a quote found in a blog entitled "of toilet paper and space probes"

We in the United States are, arguably, the most technologically advanced society in the world. In this age of gigahertz processors and Martian rovers, when people can “stay connected” almost 24 hours a day in any terrain or environment, with so many advances in our standard of living and general comfort level how can the pinnacle of ass-cleaning technology be a flimsy roll of easily-torn paper?

The author then proposes a challenge to help people visualize the problem. He suggests cleaning peanut butter off one's beard using toilet paper without the use of a mirror.

The point is that toilet paper does not actually "clean," it simply removes most of the material. Would one want to shower like this? Without water or soap?

Note: James is actually covered in paint. James finally decided to shower with soap and water and not the toilet paper.

Is it strange that we spend more time with oral-care products than ass-care products? We should at least give both orifices equal cleansing attention.

The Three Sea Shells

The idea of toilet paper is jeered at in the classic movie Demolition Man starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. In this movie Stallone's character John Spartan is cryogenically frozen and brought back to life in the future. After using the toilet of the future, the following dialogue takes place:

John Spartan: [whispering to Lenina] Look, I don't know if you guys know it, but you're... you're out of toilet paper.
Alfredo Garcia: Did you say toilet paper?
Lenina Huxley: Oh. They used handfuls of wadded paper back in the 20th...
[Lenina, Alfredo, and Erwin all laugh]
John Spartan: I'm happy that you're happy, but the place where you're supposed to have the toilet paper, you've got this little shelf with three seashells on it.
Erwin: He doesn't know how to use the three seashells!
[Erwin continues to laugh, then calms down]
Erwin: I can see how that could be confusing.

This famous clip can be viewed here.

Waste of Paper

Some would argue that the greater concern would be the waste of paper. Approximately 5.8 million tons of tissue products were produced in the United States annually (1992, Ame. Forest and Paper Association). However, 3.5 million tons of scrap paper was used to manufacture these tissue products. According to Toilet Paper World, tissue manufacturers have one of the highest recycled paper utilization rates in the paper and paperboard industry; over 60 percent in recent years. This means that tissue manufacturers require 60 tons of recovered paper for every 100 tons of tissue paper produced.

The following data shows the options that one cord of wood could yield. (ToiletPaperWorld.com).

*1,000 pounds of toilet paper, or…
*30 Boston Rockers, or
*12 dining room tables (each table seats eight), or
*7,500,000 toothpicks, or
*460,000 personal checks, or
*89,870 sheets of letter head bond paper (size 8 ½" s 11"), or
*61,370 standard #10 envelopes, or
*14,384,000 commemorative-size postage stamps, or
*1,200 copies of the National Geographic, or
*2,700 copies of the average daily paper (35 pages), or
*250 copies of the Sunday New York Times, or
*942 one-pound books, or
*the heating value of one ton of coal, or
*the heating value of 200 gallons of fuel oil

Without toilet paper one could conceivably have an additional 7.5 million toothpicks annually! That's a lot of toothpicks!

Other Concerns

Toilet paper involves some contact with fecal matter which is not very sanitary. Also, with a different means of cleaning (perhaps a paperless means) there will be less toilet bowl clogs. It would also make water purification slightly easier.

Toilet paper is hard to load onto the holder. Sometimes the holder springs eject themselves and fly around the bathroom. Occasionally the toilet paper holder falls off and the paper touches the dirty bathroom floor. This problem was actually solved by my ex-lab partner Bill Fienup with his easy load toilet paper holder.

The least of concerns could be those embarrassing moments at the checkout line of the grocery store when you have that giant pack of toilet paper...and you don't want people to know that you poop so you use those self-checkout machines...which is another problem in itself.

copyright 2006