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"The security of supply for toilet paper is at risk"

There is a special day for almost everything.

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"The security of supply for toilet paper is at risk"

There is a special day for almost everything. Mother's Day is a very well-known example of this. Or World Children's Day and World AIDS Day.

But there are also quirky campaign days, such as Work Nap Day, Call a Friend Day, Ask a Stupid Question Day or Take Your Cat to the Vet Day.

And there are days when certain industries and products are the focus: Coffee Day, for example, World Book Day – and most recently, International Toilet Paper Day.

The latter is always celebrated on August 26th. Big celebrations for the rather inconspicuous product are not on the agenda, unlike, for example, at the breweries on German Beer Day at the end of April.

Nevertheless, the paper manufacturers use the special attention of the action day for a message. However, that is worrying. "The security of supply for such an important product is at risk," reports the Association of the Paper Industry.

This time, however, the reason for the impending shortage is no hoarding, which was primarily the case in Germany at the beginning of the corona pandemic. Instead, the issue of energy supply could soon become a problem for the industry.

“In the hygienic paper production process, we are particularly dependent on gas. If there is a loss, we can no longer guarantee the security of supply," explains Martin Krengel, Vice President of the Paper Industry Association and at the same time Chairman of the Board of Wepa, a family company from Arnsberg in Sauerland that specializes in hygienic paper.

However, Krengel emphasizes that “ensuring the supply of people” has top priority for manufacturers in the current energy crisis. Especially since toilet paper is not only important for private hygiene. "It's also essential in the workplace and in public settings like hospitals, nursing homes and airports."

After all, every German citizen uses an average of 134 rolls a year, according to the statistics. They are primarily manufactured in Germany. According to the association, almost ten companies across the country produce around 750,000 tons of toilet paper every year.

This corresponds to a share of 3.4 percent of the total paper production in Germany. The largest providers include Wepa, Essity, Metsä, Kimberly-Clark and Hakle. Around a sixth of production goes abroad, while goods of a similar size come back from foreign manufacturers.

The supply situation is still not critical. However, problems can arise relatively quickly. Because toilet paper is usually produced with little lead time and delivered immediately to retailers, as Gregor Andreas Geiger, Managing Director of Communications and Public Relations at the Paper Industry Association, reports.

The industry is looking for alternatives when it comes to energy supply. “Where possible, attempts are made to cover demand with coal, heating oil or electricity. So far, however, a maximum of ten to 15 percent of the use of natural gas can be substituted.”

The aim of many companies in the industry are plants that are operated with hydrogen. And theoretically that would be possible in many places, Geiger knows. Only the necessary amounts of hydrogen are missing. "Until then, gas is the interim solution."

But that is now extremely expensive. Due to the high energy prices, manufacturers have repeatedly stopped production temporarily in recent months. "The production just didn't pay off anymore," explains Geiger. Only when the trade adjusted the purchase prices could production continue. According to the association, all systems are currently running at full speed.

Toilet paper has been around since 1857 and has been produced in Germany since 1880. Before that, people got by with leaves, rags or simply water.

In the first decades, the toilet paper was made of hard and rough crepe. It was not until 1957 that toilet paper made of so-called tissue paper and thus in a softer form was available.

Fish fibers and recycled paper as ingredients balance each other out. In German households, it is rolled forward in 96 percent of cases, as surveys show. There are, however, equal numbers of blockbusters and folds: around half of the population in Germany crumples the paper before using it, the other half folds it.

All in all, every German citizen spends an average of three years in the loo. Incidentally, there is also a special day of action for this: World Toilet Day on November 19th.

"Everything on shares" is the daily stock exchange shot from the WELT business editorial team. Every morning from 7 a.m. with the financial journalists from WELT. For stock market experts and beginners. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Amazon Music and Deezer. Or directly via RSS feed.

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