Who Gives A Crap - Please Stop Packaging Your Toilet Paper in Plastic - We Give a Crap!

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The brand

Who Gives A Crap is an awesome brand. A social enterprise that makes toilet paper out of post consumer recycled paper, sends them plastic free in a cardboard box to your door, and then uses 50% of their profits to fund sanitary programs around the world. They have gained popularity in the zero waste/eco/environmental community and for good reason. They have an emphasis on sustainability, with one of their mottos being "Good for the world, good for people, good for your bum". They don't use any inks, dyes or scents. Looking at their website, I'm happy to pay a little bit more for this  super eco product. I have loved getting this toilet paper delivered to my door, and felt good about supporting an innovative brand doing amazing things. As someone working towards a zero waste lifestyle, Who Gives A Crap seems completely aligned with my values.

The problem (simplified)

Considering how awesome this company is, you might be as surprised as I was when I saw 'Who Gives A Crap' selling six packs of toilet paper in my local store - packaged in plastic. They address this on the packaging, stating that the specific type of plastic is better - however, when you really look into it, it's actually not at all. Oxo biodegradable plastics turn into microplastics and wreak havoc on the environment and our food chain (should you eat meat). This is not just plastic packaging, but one with extra devastating consequences. 

The problem (in depth)

Considering how awesome this company is, you might be as surprised as I was when I saw 'Who Gives A Crap' selling six packs of toilet paper in my local store - packaged in plastic. This actually stopped me in my tracks. I bought the toilet paper, so I could look into this further - the store was closing and so I bought the pack, took it home and inspected further. On the package it says "Wait, plastic packaging? Yup. We know it feels icky, but we've done our homework and it turns out that the environmental impact of this plastic packaging is better than a similar paper package would be. Want to learn more? Visit our website (and a link).." I felt pretty sceptical so of course, I followed the link (I'm sure a lot of people would have just trusted that they'd looked into it and were right) . 

This is the link: au.whogivesacrap.org/paperorplastic

It states that the main reason they chose plastic packaging over paper is that paper can tear and then the product would be wasted. This didn't sit right with me considering brands like PLANET ARK currently package their recycled paper toilet paper in paper without any overwhelming issues and have done for years.

Then the page goes on to explain that they use an "eco plastic' called oxy biodegradable which breaks down eventually (2 years under the exact 'right' circumstances which is unlikely). It doesn't go into detail but suggests this will essentially break down and have no negative impact.  The thing is - it does break down, but it breaks down into microplastics. Which is arguably even worse then regular plastic. In fact, it's so bad the EU is currently working to blanket ban the plastics as it is so detrimental to the environment.

Then the page links to a TED TALK by  Leyla Acaroglu which actually is worth watching if you're interested:


Most people would probably not watch the video, and assume it backs up their point and that they're doing the right thing. So the TED Talk basically focuses on the fact that we need to consider the entire life cycle of a product and the impact of it at creation, use and after (to the end of it's life cycle). Which I totally agree with. We need to address design in a circular economic fashion, where waste is designed out of the equation entirely. It mentions that, in some cases, plastic might be OVERALL more sustainable than paper. It is definately a complex issue and the TED talk is worth watching. But it didn't make me think that this situation was justified.. in fact, considering Leyla's main point : that we need to consider the entire life cycle of the product.. here is my problem: This is not sustainable on any level - production or disposal.

"While often confused with biodegradable plastics, oxo-degradables are a category unto themselves. They are neither a bioplastic nor a biodegradable plastic, but rather a conventional plastic mixed with an additive in order to imitate biodegredation. Oxo-degradable plastics quickly fragment into smaller and smaller pieces, called microplastics, but don’t break down at the molecular or polymer level like biodegradable and compostable plastics. The resulting microplastics are left in the environment indefinitely until they eventually fully break down." -GreenDot BioPlastics

So, on one hand we have closed loop recycling of paper which reduces the need for the creation of new product while also diverting waste from landfill - taking a waste product and using it again (which is what Planet Ark do, with no issue, which is a circular economy based approach)

On the other hand.. Who Gives A Crap is taking toxic chemicals and petrolium to make conventional PET plastic, adding more chemicals to create a chemical reaction (if under certain conditions, for about 2 years which is unrealistic) in the product which causes it to eventually break down into smaller and smaller microplastics which become an astronomical envrionmental problem.

On the other (third?) hand we have compostable packaging readily available. If you really think recycled paper is unsustainable (which I find hard to believe considering your product itself is made from recycled paper) then perhaps consider some of the amazing compostable packaging that exists readily - home compostable, made sustainably from renewable fast growing crops like corn, and won't break down into microplastics.

Why it hurts your brand

Who Gives a Crap - I really like you guys. I have spent more money than usual on toilet paper to support your business, because I was under the impression that it aligns with my values. I want to keep supporting you, but I'm so disappointed by this. It appears so off brand for you guys. It feels a lot like greenwashing. It feels like you're trying to tell us these oxo biodegradable plastics are better when they're simply not. There is no mention of this store bought 6 pack product on your website, and no photos on your social media and only one photo I could find on the internet from a stockist..  It seems like perhaps this is intentional, but regardless - I wouldn't have known about this unless I stumbled upon it. I'm honestly glad I did though. For a brand I thought was zero waste and helping me achieve that in my own life, I am surprised that you are seriously trying to tell me that this type of plastic is more environmentally friendly than post consumer recycled paper, or - even more so, plant based home compostable materials. Even more, you're trying to tell us that biodegradable plastics that break down into microplastics are 'good for the planet'. I'm just not buying it.

What do we want?

We want you to enable us to continue to support your business, by doing the right thing by us as consumers and making a change that aligns with your/our collective values. Please stop using plastic. You know better. We as consumers know better. We want better. Please don't wrap your awesome product in plastic that breaks down into microplastics and tell us it's more eco than post consumer recycled paper or compostable materials. We know better than that. Please make a change that aligns with your values (and us as consumers) so I (and I'm sure many others) can continue to support the good work you're doing. You are doing awesome things and contributing to real environmental change but this is so off brand for you and it will influence my continuing to purchase with you - which I want to do, but I won't if you continue to greenwash (one of the worst kinds of) plastic and tell us it's better than paper/compostable packaging. Let's strive for what's really better and choose truely sustainable packaging and consider it's whole life cycle.

I hope you'll consider this change and I hope this petition shows you that your customers want better than plastic - please make the change so we can continue to support your business knowing we're supporting a truly environmental business.