In 2020, supermarkets in Australia and elsewhere introduced limits on purchasing toilet roll amid a rise in panic-buying. Image: Istock.com/FotografiaBasica via AFP Relaxnews

And the most emblematic product of 2020 is… toilet paper

November 20th, 2020

Nov. 19 is World Toilet Day, so let’s celebrate toilet paper (TP). The most-celebrated product of spring 2020 and the first lockdown measures, TP confirmed its popular status when new stay-at-home mandates were issued this autumn, as shoppers continued stockpiling this more than “essential” product.

It’s a phenomenon that has been noticed worldwide since the onset of the pandemic. But why do people stock up on toilet paper during a coronavirus pandemic?

A global phenomenon

Toilet roll sales were selling at record levels back in March, when videos showing shopping carts overflowing with toilet paper went viral.

This toilet paper craze is a global one. During the first stay-at-home mandate back in March, Australian researchers tried to answer this question asked by the World Economic Forum: why do people stockpile toilet paper?

According to Niki Edwards, from the School of Public Health and Social Work (Queensland University of Technology), toilet paper symbolizes control. “We use it to ‘tidy up’ and ‘clean up.’ It deals with a bodily function that is somewhat taboo. When people hear about the coronavirus, they are afraid of losing control. And toilet paper feels like a way to maintain control over hygiene and cleanliness,” noted the researcher interviewed by the World Economic Forum.

Many people use toilet paper as tissue

Non-perishable in essence, stockpiling doesn’t mean that you have to use it right away, noted David Savage, a Newcastle Business School researcher, who viewed this phenomenon as a preparation process.

Another researcher from the University of Melbourne, Brian Cook, added an interesting analysis quoted by the World Economic Forum. “Toilet paper is a product that takes a lot of space, and is therefore not something people have a lot of under normal circumstances. A lot of people likely also use toilet paper as a tissue, and therefore imagine themselves needing a lot if they have the flu or a flu-like illness.” RGA

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