Designed to flush and forget, toilet paper is considered an essential product in modern bathrooms and necessary for Australian hygiene. As plumbers in Elwood, we’re experts in all areas of bathroom plumbing and toilet installation, including the four types of toilet flushing systems. Often toilet paper is not given any thought until a problem arises, like a clogged toilet that refuses to flush or a worldwide product shortage. Today our experts have shared some insight into the history of toilet paper and its function in Australia’s sewerage system.

Ancient hygiene standards and the invention of toilet paper

Despite the oldest functioning toilet being more than 4000 years old, the toilet paper roll is considered a recent invention. Before paper, many materials were previously used in lieu of the loo roll, including grass, leaves, seashells, fruit skins, corncobs, or just hands. Ancient Romans used a communal sponge on a stick and with the rise of publishing in the 18th century, newspapers and cheap books were used.

Joseph Gayetty is considered the inventor of specialised toilet paper. In 1857, he manufactured Gayetty’s paper which was sold as flat sheets until the 1920s as “medicated paper for the water-closet.” In 1890, the packaging of toilet paper was changed with the popular alternative of rolls marketed by the Scott Paper Company. In fact, two-ply toilet paper was only introduced in Britain as recently as 1942. Since these historic changes to the product, toilet paper has continued to be refined and improved for enhanced comfort, sensitivity and sustainability with a range of different materials, designs, lengths and ply counts available in Australia today.

The best toilet paper for Australia’s sewerage

With an ever-growing list of things you should never flush down the toilet, you may consider all toilet paper to be sewerage friendly. In the same way that napkins and other tissue paper are not suited for the sewerage system, some toilet paper is more easily broken down than others in your septic system. Limiting your usage of the wrong sorts of toilet paper can help Melbourne’s sewerage plants from nasty blockages and problems.

There are many qualities to consider including scents, prints and ply count, before even approaching sustainability characteristics like recycled, biodegradable and chlorine-free. In general, it is best to avoid bleached products and quilted or soft toilet paper as they are more absorbent and likely to expand. If toilet paper expands and takes too long to disintegrate, it can clog and cause blockages within your plumbing leading to costly toilet repairs.

Toilet paper is specially formulated to be flushed into the sewage as blackwater, the wastewater from the toilet. Once flushed, the paper breaks down into little fibres that won’t be caught by the screen of Melbourne’s two large treatment plants. This screen acts like a large sieve, which catches larger items floating in the sewage like cotton buds or baby wipes. The fibres of the toilet paper pass with the sewage into an aeration tank, where bubbles and chemicals are blown throughout the blackwater to break down organic matter.

After a day of this process, the sediment at the bottom of the tank is removed and the water goes through a further filter process by passing through a pit of pebbles and travelling under a UV light. The water is now clean enough to be released back into the natural water cycle, without any remnants of the toilet paper.

Environmentally friendly toilet paper

The types of toilet paper that are less damaging to the environment include recycled or biodegradable paper. If you’re looking for more sustainable solutions, our Elwood-based plumbers recommend you opt for toilet paper with a PEFC certification or an FSC certification. It may not guarantee that the product is entirely manufactured from a sustainable source, but it does mean that the virgin fibres came from forests that are managed to higher environmental and social standards.

Looking for products that are unbleached or made with chlorine alternatives can also be less harmful to the environment. There are also a growing number of material alternatives for toilet paper including bamboo, but they may have a higher carbon cost due to transit when compared to more locally made products. Ultimately, if you’re trying to find a more environmentally friendly alternative, consider researching the sustainability of your toilet paper and considering the sensitivity of your home’s sewage system.

Looking for an Elwood plumber?

If you require a local plumber in Elwood, the friendly team of JPG Plumbing is here to help! Our plumbers are experts in general plumbing and maintenance services including clearing blocked drains, toilet repairs, installing hot water systems and auditing water usage and efficiency.

If you would like to improve your home’s plumbing or you require our 24/7 emergency service, then give us a call on 0400 978 442 or contact us today by filling out our online enquiry form.