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Can We Live Without Toilet Paper?

March 06, 2020 2 min read

Pandemic panic-buying: can we live without toilet paper?

In case you missed the news this week, Australians are wiping clean (pardon the pun) supermarket shelves around the country and stocking up on single-use paper goods, in particular toilet paper.

Concerned by media hysteria surrounding the coronavirus, we’ve whipped out our wallets and stockpiled like regular preppers.

To be clear, I’m not having a go at people who see a genuine need or desire to prepare a little in the face of ubiquitous media coverage surrounding the current situation (or at preppers!), but hoarding toilet paper just doesn’t make sense on virtually any level.

For starters, 60% of our toilet paper is manufactured here in Australia, so the risk of supply chain interruption is very low. And secondly, you can’t eat it or use it to improve your wellness if you do happen to get sick.

So if the risk of supply issues are low and we’re hoarding something we can’t eat and won’t make us better, we have to ask what else is going on here.

We know that spending money makes us feel good – it’s one of our rights, really; to spend money when and how we want. It comes with the territory of earning money and living in a country that allows us to spend at our discretion and we often vote with our wallet by putting money towards what feels important to us at a particular time.

Compulsory spending is frequently used as a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, trauma, sadness and pain and it makes us feel good (or at least better). In the face of uncertainty, it makes us feel like we’re doing something. Anything. Like we’re back in control of the situation.

But we’re not. 

We now just have 100 rolls of toilet paper that we can’t possibly use in the next 3 months and our elderly neighbour is without.

If there was a real national emergency and we were asked to prepare seriously, I hope most Australian families would look at stocking up on some canned food, bottled water, prescription meds and first aid supplies, ahead of toilet paper.

Toilet paper really and truly is something we can live without. It’s something humans lived without up until about a century ago and if things really went pear-shaped, it’s something we could learn to live without again. 

Recent events have made toilet paper look like something we couldn’t possibly replace or replicate, but we humans are a bit more creative than that. We’ve done a pretty good job of creating the ultimate alternative to a single-use nappy and I’m sure we could do the same for single-use loo paper if we had to.

Interestingly, I haven’t seen any reports of people stockpiling disposable nappies and I have to wonder if this is because we have a reliable, reusable alternative that’s readily available. 

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