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Two million rolls and counting: how this bamboo toilet paper is changing lives beyond the bathroom

Photography By REEL PAPER

For most of the Western world, access to a quality toilet is an everyday luxury we take for granted. The same can be said for toilet paper. That is, until a global pandemic caused a pandemonium of panic-buying.

On the other side of the sheet, Reel Paper founders Livio Bisterzo and Derin Oyekan experienced enormous growth during this time, having introduced a sustainable, bamboo-based, biodegradable toilet paper onto the market in 2019. As a result of the Covid-rush, they recently celebrated a considerable milestone, surpassing two million rolls sold of their “life-changing toilet paper”. Shit got Reel, if you will.

Oyekan grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and witnessed first-hand the health and environmental challenges that arise from communities lacking access to clean toilets and running water. These issues affect an estimated 2.4 billion people around the world, exposing vulnerable communities to deadly pathogens and contaminated water supplies.

“My experience growing up in Lagos and seeing those without [sanitation] definitely fuels my ambition,” Oyekan says. “I have a post-it note on my bedroom mirror that reminds me of my personal mission every day – which is to create products and experiences that have a positive impact on people’s lives.”

This is exemplified in Reel Paper’s dual mission. First, they set out to sustainably re-design a staple product – toilet paper. Traditional toilet roll production causes around 27,000 trees to be cut down per day. Reel Paper developed sheets using bamboo fibres as an alternative to hardwood fibres. Bamboo has the ability to grow up to three feet in 24 hours (making it the fastest growing plant on the planet), requires 30 per cent less water than hardwood trees and can be grown without pesticides or chemical fertilisers. Ticking many environmentally positive boxes, bamboo also passes the ever-important soft and strong sheet test, meaning customers don’t have to compromise a comfortable 3-ply wipe to do better for the environment.

The organisation’s other mission involves improving sanitation in communities lacking access to clean toilets and running water around the world. Reel Paper directs a percentage of profits to partnering with SOIL, an NGO based in Haiti focused on building regenerative, waterless toilets to improve local waste management through treating and transforming waste into fertiliser. The organisation pays locals workers to distribute the fertiliser, restoring soil fertility and building a local circular economy.

“We’re trying to change buyers’ behaviour and change lives,” Oyekan says. “We’re taking a portion of the profit from every product sold and using it to have a big impact on people’s lives in Haiti by providing them with access to clean toilets.”

It’s not a hard sell – just about everyone needs toilet paper. And with Reel Paper, your bathroom shares your values: every purchase is having a positive impact on the planet and those living in disadvantaged communities. With no compromise to the soft experience you’re likely accustomed to, by making the switch to Reel Paper’s sustainable toilet roll, you can wipe in peace, knowing your conscience is also clean.

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