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Meet the Tree-Free Alternative Trying to Disrupt the Paper Industry

“Treeless” toilet paper is on a roll. As consumers look for more eco-friendly bath tissue, several startups are working to deliver sustainable and planet-friendly alternatives to common household goods. 

One company that has been spotlighted for its eco-friendly paper offerings is California-based Reel Paper. Reel Paper uses bamboo instead of wood pulp as its base material to create tree-free toilet paper and paper towels. Bamboo is a more sustainable raw material compared to wood pulp because it is a fast-growing plant that fully matures every three to five years. Additionally, bamboo regenerates from the same root once harvested, causing less damage to the ecosystem, while producing soft and durable paper products. All of these characteristics make bamboo-based paper products a more eco-friendly bath tissue compared to conventional paper products made from forest fiber.  

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Besides swapping virgin wood pulp for bamboo, Reel Paper has a no-plastic policy. The company’s paper goods are encased in 100% recyclable paper and all shipping materials are biodegradable, avoiding the need for plastic packaging. Reel Paper commits to sustainability throughout its entire supply chain by working with organizations like the Foundation and Flexport and purchasing carbon offsets for their emissions from overseas shipping. 

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The company’s flagship products, Bamboo Toilet Paper and Bamboo Paper Towels, are available for purchase online, on Amazon, and in major retail stores such as Target. A 24-pack of Reel Bamboo Toilet Paper sells for $36.99 – or about $1.50 a roll – when purchased as part of a subscription order. While a premium over more well-known toilet paper brands it appears to be a price that sustainability-minded consumers are willing to pay. In addition to its bamboo-based paper lineup, Reel Paper also sells 100% Recycled Paper Towels sourced exclusively from North America and made at home in the U.S. For every two boxes sold, Reel Paper plants a tree in collaboration with One Tree Planted

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Since launching in 2019, Reel has sold over 30 million rolls, with expectations for further growth as the SEC projects the market share for tree-free brands to increase from just 1% to potentially 20% of the household paper category by 2030. The household paper market is currently valued at over $18 billion.

Conventional paper-making practices require massive amounts of water, energy, and chemicals to increase the product’s durability. And while the industry is beginning to decouple its production from its environmental impact, it is estimated that as many as 27,000 trees a day are cut down to produce toilet paper – a figure equivalent to 10 million trees a year or an area the size of New York City. Reel Paper’s bamboo solution features sustainable, biodegradable, and plastic-free packaging, delivering a premium product without compromising quality in an industry ripe for disruption.

Nathalie Voit is a freelance content creator and a graduate of the University of Florida. She is an alumni of The Heritage Foundation’s Young Leaders Program.  

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.

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