Let’s talk toilet paper. We all know there’s a shortage, but where does toilet paper come from? What is its supply chain and how is it made? As a company full of supply chain and engineering professionals with spare time on our hands for a change, we want to know.
Like every product, it starts with raw materials. Toilet paper is made from wood pulp, along with water, chemicals for extracting, fiber and bleach. Yep, it’s that simple, trees. Which are a very renewable resource, so that’s good too. Both softwood and hardwood trees are used primarily from the USA, Canada or Russia. Also good. The pulp is processed, sprayed onto wire mesh to dry and then scraped off, rolled, cut into long strips, squared and finally cut to sized rolls.
Where are these paper manufacturers? There are several giant paper manufacturers in the USA. The majority of our toilet paper manufacturing is right here in the USA, in towns like Clatskanie, OR and Mehoopany, PA. More goodness. Of course there is likely a long string of warehouses and distributors between the factory and your neighborhood grocery store, which is undoubtedly being compressed right now.
Note, contrary to what you might have read on the Internet, this won’t actually lead to clear cutting of forests or similar devastation. Toilet paper doesn’t fluctuate in demand whether it cold or hot outside, or if it’s Christmas or Valentine’s day. It’s a stable product. Remember, the end use of toilet paper hasn’t gone up (hey maybe it’s gone down as people use fewer squares), it’s just that the inventory has shifted from warehouses and stores to people’s closets.
This will, however, lead to the bullwhip effect, where at the end demand will actually drop and there will be a glut. But that’s just how supply chain works.
And hey, maybe even a few of those excess rolls will end up back in trees. Ironic, or what?