Paper usage in the toilet is one of the last frontiers of conservation. 40% of all toilet rolls sold in the UK – and 98% in America – are made from paper derived from virgin forests. 

While some are now integrating recycled cotton waste into their mix, and others have silk in there as well, the toilet roll has come a long way from the neatly cut up newspaper tied with string that hung from the nail in my Grandad’s toilet even into the 1970s!  He considered toilet tissue something ‘cissy’, along with pink Camay soap and silk underwear. Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled materials, sappy fibre taken from standing trees add the softness required by 21st century discriminating bottoms.

The thought of a paperless toilet may seem impossible to many but think about it:  in many countries, a bidet, a hose with a spray on the end or a bucket of water and a ladle have been in use for centuries.  A sponge on a stick was used in Rome and this makes the crucifixion scene when the soldier offered Jesus a last drink of vinegar that was served on a sponge on a stick even more shocking and insulting.

Paper users are in the minority.  Toilet paper is a rather recent invention and is predominantly used only in North America, Europe and Australasia plus in toilets catering to tourists. Most use a Bidet instead of toilet paper. People who have used a bidet consider it unhygienic to wipe with a dry piece of tissue, newspaper or recycled paper .  Some doctors even claim that toilet paper contributes to haemmorhoids and other anal problems.

Habit, conditioning and culture are what teach us how to use toilets. If you have never known anything other than toilet paper, you may consider water to be something unusual.   But going the paperless route has the advantage of being environment-friendly. Hundreds of thousands of trees are lopped every year for wood chips for the manufacture of toilet tissue and we are flushing forests into the sewers (or putting the toilet tissue into landfill via plastic bags in countries like Mexico, Greece, Turkey etc. where they don’t have the drainage systems to cope with flushed paper).

The bidet can save paper but of course, it uses water which may be anathema in drought-stricken Australia.  This can’t be recycled as grey water either.

However, there is a Japanese, high-tech paperless toilet, which delivers a clean and dry rear-end. Toto, Japan’s biggest manufacture of bathroom and porcelain furnishings, has introduced the paperless toilet.  In its publicity, Toto wrote, ‘There is mounting unease at the amount of toilet paper consumed in the western world.’


Their toilet seat with its magic self-cleaning ‘Washlet ‘ wand, warm-air dryer and heated seat is the Rolls Royce of toilets. The ‘Washlet’ blows tiny bubbles of water, at the user’s rear end to achieve a new level of hygiene and comfort. A hand-held radio-link control panel installed beside the throne allows the user to turn it on only when needed – thus no flooding of the loo or wetting of clothing.

‘…an integrated, self-cleaning nozzle extends to release a warm, soothing stream of aerated water to provide the ultimate in personal cleansing.’

The nozzle, which is concealed under the back of the toilet seat can be extended to direct its water jet to wherever it is needed.

When cleansed sufficiently, you just flick on the warm air blower, with three temperature settings to choose from, to dry off.


For extra comfort, the seat is warmed  and a built in air purifier blasts any odours.  There is also a model that has noise canceling sound effects to counteract the need for a ‘courtesy flush’,

The entire rigmarole retracts and is disinfected for the next user.

More than 70 per cent of Tokyo households have them installed as paper is something that is at a premium in Japan.  Incredibly, it uses less water than the average toilet due to its unique flush. The average toilet uses 12 litres of water per flush, while the Toto ‘Tornado flush’ uses just six and requires less cleaning due to its super high vitreous glaze CeFiONtect which prevents waste, mould or limescale from clinging.

And the cost?  Around $5000 AUD.  So maybe that alternative, the sponge on a stick, may be preferable!

The hoses used in Singapore and Bangkok are excellent though I worry about the water quality of those cities.  OK for Australia though.

This is a spray hose that is connected to the toilet plumbing inlet.  It has a nozzle at the end of the hose and is easily flicked on and off. Nothing for drying though!  Back to the paper.

Or you can try (don’t be scared now!) an alternative such as cotton cloths – a wonderful blogger and “urban farmer extraordinaire”  Sayward Rebhal at Bonzai Aphrodite has done so in her Monday Monthly Missions. See how she does it here and read about her experiences of her new cloth reusable toilet paper!


Our wonderful images are by Egahen & Bonzai Aphrodite

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