We’re having to cope with a toilet paper famine entirely of our own making. Picture: AAP Image/Attila Csaszar
We’re having to cope with a toilet paper famine entirely of our own making. Picture: AAP Image/Attila Csaszar

Turns out toilet paper hoarders were right

COMMENT

We've had to deal with drought, bushfires and a killer virus.

And now we're having to cope with a toilet paper famine entirely of our own making.

Yep, the hoarders are getting the last laugh because while their panic buying has meant they can merrily wipe their way through the winter and beyond, the rest of us are having to find alternatives.

The trouble is, our toilet paper shortage is not real. It's an artificial famine caused by the selfish who think their bum is the only one that matters. Toilet paper is made in Australia and if we all buy responsibly there's enough to go round. Or, rather, down.

What the hoarders don't appear to realise is that they could cause another threat to our safety as the paperless look for alternatives. Tissues are surely too luxe, paper towels too harsh and wet wipes … well, too wet. It's a Goldilocks dilemma but you have to use something and your substitute could cause our sewage system to become gridlocked.

In the UK, Thames Water, the largest water and wastewater service, is warning customers not to create "fatbergs" - the product of fat and non-biodegradable matter - by using substitutes for loo roll. They advise only the 3Ps should be flushed down the loo - poo, pee and (toilet) paper.

Buyers grabbing supplies at Costco in North Lakes Brisbane earlier this month. Picture: AAP Image/Attila Csaszar
Buyers grabbing supplies at Costco in North Lakes Brisbane earlier this month. Picture: AAP Image/Attila Csaszar

Yet having been to the supermarket and seen the decimated shelves, it seems the great toilet paper rush of Autumn 2020 might trigger panic buying of other products.

Yesterday my local Woollies had no potatoes of any variety, including sweet, and no tinned tomatoes, pasta, rice, hand sanitiser, antibacterial wipes or painkillers. The only bread on the shelf was gluten-free which suggests that, for all their challenges, coeliacs are more generous souls. Bafflingly, there was also no flour which suggests the nation intends to approach their isolation with a frenzy of cake making. You have to hope we don't have a shortage of diabetes medication.

Clearly, we need a change in mindset. If we don't want the sort of food rationing that characterised the Second World War then we need to get a grip. Ours is a healthy, wealthy country where we produce an abundance of quality food and products. Meat, grains, vegetables, fruit and a ton of household products are made or grown here so we're better off than many.

 

The toilet paper panic buying has left more vulnerable members of the community without vital supplies. Picture: Liam Kidston.
The toilet paper panic buying has left more vulnerable members of the community without vital supplies. Picture: Liam Kidston.

And even if we're not, we need to adapt. Yesterday I was making a chicken tray bake for a friend dealing with a lot more than the corona scare. The recipe required potatoes but the supermarket didn't have them. So I cooked some couscous instead.

Being adaptable is not something many of us have had to deal with in our lifetime. With basic needs met and resources in good supply, we've had it lucky but now we need to think differently.

To coincide with the outbreak of COVID-19 we also need outbreaks of altruism, where caring for others becomes as essential as caring for ourselves. Decency, sharing, flexibility and favouring collective rather than individual interests will see us through.

It's time we adopted one of the key skills advocated by the British Ministry of Information during WWII.

"Make do and Mend" was a necessary response to a thrifty era which saw clothes repurposed and food items stretched. Unable to get stockings for their legs, women improvised by drawing a black line up the back of their calves.

In short, we'll survive if we don't panic buy anything.

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Supermarket shelves around the country are bare. Picture: Supplied
Supermarket shelves around the country are bare. Picture: Supplied

Rather, we need to learn to "make do". Indeed, in straightened times with incomes in jeopardy, prudence may become part of our national psyche. It may make us anxious but learning new things and ways of coping is what makes us resilient.

Now is not the time for herd mentality. What we need is clear-thinking and a sharing of ideas and laughs. Plenty of us are feeling anxious - one writer says his heart is "battering away like a pair of trainers in a washing machine" - but having regard for each other will provide calm amid the chaos.

At the very least, be innovative. This morning a friend posted a photo on Facebook of a zip-lock bag filled with leaves. "Organic toilet paper - $10 a bag," he wrote.

It's time for unity, sharing and solidarity. Especially when it comes to bog roll.

Angela Mollard is a freelance writer | @angelamollard


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