THE GREAT TOILET PAPER PANIC of March 2020 made us wonder more about this form of paper that is so vital to the American psyche. Billions and billions of rolls are sold annually in the US, covering the nation in a dense and disposable security blanket. One tree can be turned into just a few hundred rolls, and estimated averages for individual use is 100–150 rolls per person per year.
With such a large volume, in numbers as well as in the physical size of the product, there is little buffer in the supply chain. Toilet paper flows from pulp to mill to plant to distribution center at a fairly constant and balanced rate (thus the empty shelves of the 800% consumer purchase spike of March 2020). It is also a very domestic product: 90% of what is consumed in the US, comes from the US (and of the 10% that is imported, most is from Canada and Mexico). And though there are more than 150 companies that make it, more than 80% comes from just three companies: Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, and Georgia-Pacific.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble makes Charmin, the most popular consumer brand of toilet paper in the US. It is made at several large plants around the country, which also make the company’s other paper products, including commercial toilet paper, Bounty paper towels, and napkins. Procter & Gamble is a multinational consumer products company, specializing in personal hygiene and cleaning products, with around $70 billion in annual revenue and 100,000 employees globally. Its brands include Crest toothpaste, Dawn dishwashing liquid, Tide laundry detergent, Gillette razors, and Pampers diapers.
Albany Paper Mill
This Procter & Gamble paper plant in southern Georgia makes Bounty paper towels and Charmin toilet paper. It has around three million square feet under its roof.
Box Elder Paper Mill
Procter & Gamble opened this plant in 2011 to make Charmin toilet paper and Bounty paper towels for the western and intermountain region. It is located in a remote area northwest of Brigham City, near a Walmart Distribution Center. Walmart, unsurprisingly, is the largest retailer of Charmin toilet paper.
Cape Girardeau Paper Mill
This massive Procter & Gamble plant on the Mississippi River, north of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, started out in 1969, making Pampers diapers. It has been expanded over the years to make toilet paper and paper towels, and now covers more than three million square feet.
Green Bay Paper Mill
Procter & Gamble’s plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin, produces Bounty paper towels, Charmin toilet tissue, and Puffs facial tissue. It is located in one of the major paper production corridors in the nation, along the Fox River, between Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan.
Mehoopany Paper Mill
With a continuous roof more than a half a mile long, this is one of the largest of Procter & Gamble’s toilet paper production sites in the country. It is located on the Susquehanna River, in a rural part of Pennsylvania, west of Scranton. The plant makes Charmin toilet paper, Bounty paper towels and napkins, and diapers under the Pampers and Luvs brand names.
Oxnard Paper Mill
The Procter & Gamble paper products plant in Oxnard, north of Los Angeles, is one of two large toilet paper production sites in Southern California. It was built by International Paper in 1969, and was purchased by P&G in 1973.
Kimberly-Clark is a paper company that makes around a quarter of the toilet paper in the USA. Started in Neenah, Wisconsin, in 1872, it still employs more than 2,000 people in that area, at a few smaller production sites, and at its former corporate campuses. In the 1970s the company started divesting itself of its pulp and sheet paper mills to focus on manufacturing disposable paper hygiene products, and is now based in Irving, Texas. It has more than $20 billion in annual revenue, and employs around 40,000 people at dozens of manufacturing locations, including several plants making toilet paper for its Scott and Cottonelle brands, as well as commercial toilet paper for away-from-home suppliers.
Beech Island Paper Mill
Kimberly-Clark’s Beech Island Paper Mill in South Carolina is the company’s largest production plant, and one of the largest single sources of toilet paper in the country. 2,000 people work at the plant, making Scott, Cottonelle, and other brands of toilet paper, as well Kleenex facial tissue, Kotex feminine products, Huggies diapers, and paper towels.
Chester Paper Mill
Kimberly-Clark operates this toilet paper plant on the industrialized bank of the Delaware River, south of Philadelphia. It is one of a few older integrated paper mills it acquired when it bought Scott Paper in 1995. The plant employs around 800 people.
Fullerton Paper Mill
This paper plant in the middle of an industrial warehouse zone in Fullerton is one of two large toilet paper plants in Southern California.
Jenks Paper Mill
Kimberly-Clark operates this paper plant south of Tulsa, Oklahoma, one of several the company has in the US making toilet paper for its Scott and Cottonelle brands, as well as other disposable paper products.
Mobile Paper Mill
Kimberly-Clark operates this toilet paper plant on the industrialized waterway north of Mobile, Alabama. It is one of a few older integrated paper mills Kimberly-Clark acquired when it bought Scott Paper in 1995. The plant employs around 500 people.
Paris Paper Mill
This modern Kimberly-Clark paper plant is located on the outer loop highway that surrounds the small city of Paris, Texas. It makes Scott and Cottonelle toilet paper, as well as other tissue products for the company. It is one of a dozen or so paper plants of this size operated by Kimberly-Clark in the USA.
One of the big three toilet paper producers, Georgia-Pacific is often ranked as the second largest overall paper producer in the US (International Paper is number one). Georgia-Pacific has several large tissue mills in the USA, making toilet paper for its consumer brands, including Quilted Northern, as well as for private label and commercial use. The company’s tissue production grew through acquisitions, including Great Northern Nekoosa in 1990, and Fort James in 2000. In addition to pulp and paper products, the company makes building materials like gypsum wall board and plywood. It is based in Atlanta, has around 35,000 employees, and was bought by Koch Industries in 2005, for $21 billion.
Broadway Paper Mill
The Broadway Paper Mill is a tissue mill, using pulp supplied from other sources, to make toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins. It is the larger of two plants in Green Bay, Wisconsin, operated by Georgia-Pacific, which is often ranked as the second largest toilet paper producer in the US. It is located near Procter & Gamble’s toilet paper plant.
Halsey Paper Mill
The Halsey Paper Mill is a tissue mill, north of Eugene, Oregon, making toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins, from pulp generated on site. It is one of two pulp-to-tissue plants in the USA operated by Georgia-Pacific.
Muskogee Paper Mill
The Muskogee Paper Mill is a tissue mill, making toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins, for the consumer and commercial market, from pulp produced on site. Located on the Arkansas River in Muskogee, Oklahoma, it is one of five large tissue paper plants in the USA owned by Georgia-Pacific.
Savannah River Paper Mill
This paper mill, north of Savannah, Georgia, is one of the largest tissue plants in the country. It opened in 1986, built by the Fort Howard Paper Company, and was purchased by Georgia-Pacific in 2002. The facility has 75 acres under one roof. Almost 1,000 people work at the plant, making toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins, mostly from recycled waste paper.
Wauna Paper Mill
The Wauna Paper Mill is a tissue mill, making toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins for Georgia-Pacific. It is one of three paper mills operated by GP in Oregon. This one is near the mouth of the Columbia River.
The remaining 20% of the market not captured by the big three is supplied by the rest of the 150 or so companies that make toilet paper in the USA. These include some large Canadian paper companies with tissue plants in the USA, like Resolute Forest Products, and Irving, and some US-based companies like Clearwater Paper and Solaris Paper. Many companies just have one plant, or cut and package toilet paper from large mother rolls of tissue supplied by other companies (the final part of production, known as “converting”). Without famous brands of their own, these companies supply stock for private labels, such as grocery store chains’ in-house brands, or for commercial away-from-home markets, such as janitorial supply companies.
Clearwater Lewiston Paper Mill
The Clearwater Paper Corporation is a major supplier of private label toilet paper in the USA, and its paper mill in Lewiston, Idaho, is the company’s largest plant. Located on the Clearwater River, it employs as many as 1,300 people. The company has four other smaller plants (in Nevada, Illinois, North Carolina, and Wisconsin).
Resolute Calhoun Paper Mill
The Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products company is one of the largest private label toilet paper producers in the USA. Its largest plant is this pulp and paper mill, located northeast of Chattanooga, Tennessee, which it bought from Atlas Paper in 2015. The company operates three other tissue plants in the USA that produce toilet paper for the private label market.