Asleep at the Roll

Mr. Whipple, please tell us if anyone was “design thinking” about the latest trend in “mega” rolls of toilet paper?

Although the copy on many packages say large rolls save on packaging and eliminate waste, didn’t anyone realize that the standard home dispenser or holder cannot accommodate the larger rolls? Perhaps the “design thinkers” were indisposed when this memo was sent around.

But is the claim that larger rolls are better for the environment accurate? Proctor and Gamble notes it has done careful “life cycle analyses” of its products, to see how they can become more sustainable. In 2007 when the larger packages were introduced, P&G predicted they would $20 billion of products that have a “reduced environmental impact,” which would, in turn, improve its “environmental profile.”

Sounds good – on paper. But just try to use the “mega” rolls. Since they don’t fit, more paper is torn off the roll until it is reduced to a proper fit. Charmin is trying to rectify the situation with its free “extenders,” but doesn’t that just add more packaging waste?

(We spy Stefan Sagmeister on his studio-cam. Can you find him?)

8 thoughts on “Asleep at the Roll

  1. Cody POpp

    First world problems are the worst. haha
    I looked at the pictures before reading the copy and for a second I thought the “Charmin Extender” was a device for splitting multi-ply toilet paper. Now that would cut down on waste. I wonder if they’ll be adding a warning on the front of the packaging?

  2. Steven Heller Post author

    John, I’m glad to see someone is standing up for the satanist P+G (just kidding about the satanist). But let’s be reasonable. I live in an pre-War building where the bathroom was rennovated many years ago – with the in-the-wall toilet paper dispenser. To replace it will cost a considerable sum. I’m sure most older and many newer buildings have the same issues. Design is about forward thinking. If changes are to be made, mustn’t they be equitable? I cannot spend $500 plus to accomodate P+G’s “innovation.”

  3. john

    while i am not going to argue that bigger rolls of toilet paper are better for the environment—or are even better than smaller rolls—you cannot hold p&g responsible for not designing a roll of toilet paper to fit in antiquated, in-wall dispensers. there are plenty of other types of dispensers that will easily accommodate the mega rolls and are available at any home depot. likewise, it’s not like p&g pulled the regular-sized rolls from the shelves; you can still find a toilet paper size that will easily fit your dispenser. it’s your own fault if you are wasting paper because you need to remove it from the roll in order for it to fit in your dispenser.

  4. Gary J Moss

    Call me cynical, but the American way has often put marketing before design, with maximization of profit as the top objective. Well sure, I have nothing against profit and I understand that profit maximization can drive innovation — but often with the philosophy “who cares about the practical aspects of the product, we’ll just market the bejesus out of it.” This business model is particularly evident in the case of the automobile industry in Detroit, particularly over the past thirty years. And we all know how well that’s worked out. But hey, don’t blame management for its intransigence, it’s the workers’ fault for demanding liveable wages.

  5. Mae

    Why is design thinking, or absence thereof, the culprit for toilet paper decision making? Seems to me this could have gone awry at just about any point in any corporate process (pick one). It seems more likely that some suit decided to make the rolls bigger under the cynical guise of “green”. At least a design thinker would have taken the time to prototype the larger rolls and then observed the resulting challenges. 

  6. Karen

    While they’ve added the number of sheets, they’ve reduced the width noticeably over the last several years. The rolls are now too thick to fit in the holders, but so narrow they rattle around once you do get them in. At this rate, in another 20 years the rolls will be 3 inches wide and 2 feet thick…Bathroom accessory designers had better get busy…