Illegal logging unfortunately still counts towards around 15-30% of all wood traded globally, and accounts for 50-90% of all forestry activities across the Amazon, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia. This is estimated to cost over $15 billion in worldwide exports each year. Looking at toilet paper specifically, almost 27,000 trees a day are cut down, so the potential scenario is that over 1.4 million trees are cut down illegally every year for our toilet roll, only to be disposed of after one use. We’re definitely not saying we should re-use our toilet roll, we just need to be much more careful about where our products come from.
The cost of illegal logging stretches far and wide. Not only does felling contribute to 11% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, but it also destroys the natural habitats for wildlife, destroys biodiversity & encourages the spread of zoonotic diseases. For forest-dwelling communities, this can make them vulnerable to repression and possible human right violations. While some of these forest-dwelling communities depend on this trade, the majority of the time it can threaten their livelihood and those that reap the biggest benefits are still the logging companies & other powerful people in the black market trade. Sometimes overlooked is the impact this can have on our weather. Logging in the amazon can actually lessen the amount of rain in China and Midwest US, and increase the precipitation in Northern Europe & Eastern Africa.
One of the main causes of illegal logging worldwide is down to weak governance and corruption in these timber producing countries, but they cannot be the only ones to be held to account. The governments of consumer countries such as the US, EU & Japan need to do much more to ban the import of these illegal products. Our demand for timber products is increasing year on year so governments such as the EU where it imports large amounts of timber from areas where illegal logging is rampant need to do much more to combat this trade.
Unfortunately you simply cannot just replant new trees to replace the ones cut down to mitigate climate change and destruction of our ancient forests. It is brilliant that so many countries are getting behind the Bonn Challenge, or Trillion Trees Campaign, and planting trees has become part of election campaigns in the UK, but we must be careful as some of these initiatives involve planting a limited mix of trees that produce specific products. In some cases, such as the initiative to plant trees in Chile, whilst it increased the land covered by trees, it actually reduced the area of native forest, so decreased the biodiversity and failed to increase the carbon stores of our forests.According to a study in 2007 by PNAS, they have confirmed that the best place to grow trees is in the tropics, where the trees grow fastest and capture the most CO2. However planting schemes in the UK, northern Europe, and some of the US, may have no net effect on climate.
Consumers in the UK are growing in dissatisfaction for products connected to illegal logging, and say that there should be much greater transparency in the origins of those products that are imported into the Uk. Fortunately the UK proposed a new law in August 2020 that would require all UK businesses to show that their products and supply lines are free from illegal deforestation, however there are critics that say these laws don't go far enough and lacks detail on penalties for organisations flouting these laws.
Thankfully there is something we can all do individually to help reduce the need for deforestation and its effects on our planet and the communities that rely on the forests.
The first great way is to always be on the lookout for the FSC logo on all relevant products from tissue roll to charcoal. The Forest Stewardship Council, is an organisation dedicated to the proper management of our planet's forests. They have developed a certification & product labeling that enables us to quickly identify responsibly sourced wood & paper, so you know you are buying a product that isn’t a byproduct of exploitation.
Something else you can do which is a great eco friendly and more sustainable option is to buy 100% recycled products from UK manufacturers. This is so easy to do for tissue and paper products as it's usually highlighted all over the products packaging. By purchasing recycled products, you are making sure trees aren’t needlessly cut down, removing waste being sent to our ever filling landfills, all while reducing your own carbon footprint.
If you feel like you still want to do more to protect our beautiful forests, there are plenty of organisations taking action on governments and promoting sustainable alternatives. Most of these are charities, so will always appreciate you volunteering a couple hours a week, or making a monetary donation to their cause such as Greenpeace, FSC & World Wildlife fund. Finally you can always spread awareness by writing blogs, reaching out to your local MP, and letting your friends and family know through social media.