Sunday, June 16, 2019

A Thankless Cycle of Life: How Toilet Paper is Made


What’s just about everywhere, cleaner than can be, and quite foul once it’s done its job?

Loo paper

From premium four-ply brands of the generic stuff found in public stalls, toilet paper is an ubiquitous product throughout the English speaking world. And thank god for that. I mean seriously, ever  try using printer or newspaper as a fallback? Not pleasant.

But how did toilet get here? And how do they make it so goddamn soft? Why are some so much more costly than others?

Toilet Paper

The Grand Beginnings

The toilet paper’s odyssey, like so many others, begins in the pristine glory of nature.

There, logs are felled and gathered for the manufacturing plant. Once in the plant itself, trees are debarked and chipped into an identical size. Most combinations are 70% hardwood and 30% softwood.

Alternately, recyclable paper and scrap wood is gathered or bought.

The Pulping and Cleaning Process
These chips are mixed with a huge amount of cooking chemicals, around 10,000 gallons for 50 tons of paper.

After around three hours of cooking the paper is then sent through a washing system to remove the chemicals and lignin, which holds wood fibers together.

Then the paper immersed in warm water again, creating paper stock, often with the addition of some bleach to whiten the stuff.

If the paper has ink or is otherwise dirty then air bubbles are injected into the water, causing any ink or other material to rise and then be easily skimmed off the top.

Time to Start Rolling!
Then the bleached paper soup is given the squeeze, usually through a pair of rollers that remove all moisture and then laid on a large flat surface.

From there the paper is spooled through a dryer, which according to Discovery Channel will dry the paper in less than a second and leave each sheet around 1/100ths of a centimeter thick. How much tissue paper does the average spool hold? Around 47 miles.

Then the paper is fed through another roller to emboss the designs and brand insignias we know so well. Unlike purses with the latest designer patterns, there’s a structural benefit to prettifying what eventually won’t be so pretty at all: strength and thickness. The more embossing, the thicker and more absorptive the paper.

From a Giant, Soft Decorative Sheet to a Giant , Soft Decorative Sheet on a Toilet Roll
Meanwhile, two stripes of three-inch wide cardboard are rolled together diagonally, the top-strip’s underbelly covered with glue. Each tube is generally cut into 165 cm.

One, two, three, or even four spools with loo paper then are then pressed together and rolled onto the tube. Each end is sealed with glue to prevent any unraveling. Finally, a saw cuts the 65 inch long tube into the generic 4-inch long rolls we know so well.

Off to Packaging and Then to You!
From there the toilet paper is automatically wrapped, packaged in plastic, shipped to wherever it’s needed, purchased by you, and then tainted. Sorry loo paper, it’s your job to become gross!

About Author

Tony Dunning is a full time writer and part time comedian. He is currently employed as a writer. He lives in Sydney Australia and is passionate about the environment and social justice.

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