By Matiiapa Chindori-Chininga
Coordinator, Paper Group
Did you know that toilet paper wasn’t sold in the United States commercially until 1857? And we didn’t get toilet paper rolls until the 1880s! Many people don’t know this, but toilet paper, a modern-day household staple, is a fairly new invention in North America.
Toilet paper is one of the first products that people will stock up on both in preparation for and following a major natural disaster or economic crisis. In 1973, Tonight Show host Johnny Carson made a joke about stores running out of toilet paper that many viewers found frightening instead of funny. That year had been marred by many shortages so viewers became frantic and bought as much toilet paper as they could, which led to an actual – though temporary – toilet paper shortage. Proving that most people take toilet paper completely for granted – until it runs out of course!
Surveys show that many people will list toilet paper before food when asked to name what items they would take to a desert island so it’s a good thing that tissue is bio-degradable, meaning it can be broken down by micro-bacterial organisms into natural materials and so not cause any harm to the environment.
Growing demand for toilet paper in developing countries provides potent insight into society. Increased toilet paper consumption indicates greater economic wealth, changing norms regarding cleanliness and increased hygiene levels.
The future of toilet paper is comprised of product innovation such as faster decomposition speeds and, unlike other products that are being disrupted and replaced by digital alternatives, toilet paper is not subject to substitute by digital technologies. Though it may at times be overlooked, the undeniable importance of toilet paper will remain fundamental for ages to come.