Monday, 9 March 2020

The great toilet paper crisis of 2020

Last week we were on the South Coast of New South Wales and blissfully unaware of the great toilet paper crisis gripping the nation.

We had the internet, we did watch the tv news one night to see what was happening in the world but we didn't take the toilet paper crisis seriously - we thought that it was just stupid people panic buying and the hysteria would subside in a day or two. After all if civilisation collapses, having a house full of bog roll isn't going to protect you from the apocalypse.

As we live in a rural area we normally buy a mega pack of 24 or 36 once every few weeks - basically once we get down to our last half dozen rolls. Bushfires, and the storm eighteen months ago that washed out a bridge on the road south have taught us that we need to be prepared for minor delays and interruptions.

So we keep some canned tuna and beans, some dried beans, fruit, some pasta and Asian noodles, plus some packet soup, flour and and so on, not to mention having a loaf of sliced bread in the freezer.

We reckon that that way we can ride out any supply chain glitches.

Well, when we came back from the coast I looked at our toilet paper stock, and we were getting close to the point when we would normally buy another mega pack, and you guessed it, when I checked, our local supermarket had exactly zilch.

It's not a disaster, we have around a week's supply, and I need to go into Albury later this week so I'm confident we'll be able to pick some up from somewhere.

And it's not the problem it might have been a few weeks ago.

Up to now we've had to be picky about what sort of paper we buy - while our sewer was uPVC, instead of being connected into the main sewer which runs along the fence line at the bottom of the yard, it does a 90 degree turn, and connects into some old ceramic pipe under next door's driveway, and then into a bit of nineteenth century sewer that runs down to the main sewer.

And you've guessed it - the ceramic section is full of tree roots and blocks up every so often, meaning we had to buy the toilet paper that breaks up quickly in septic tanks and old sewer systems.

And yes, Choice, the consumer people, actually have a web page on what brands of paper are best in old systems.

Inevitably, no matter how careful you are, roots will grow and fill the drain. Given we've had a drought just makes things worse.

The solution is simple - obviously digging up next door's driveway is a non starter - you get one of the local plumbers to come round and use an electric eel with a cutting blade to rout out the roots.
There is a better solution - to reline the pipe - but that doesn't come cheap at several thousand dollars to do the job.

However one of the plumbers we used volunteered that there had been a sewer relining programme a couple of years before we moved to Beechworth, and suggested that we contact the sewer company as they seem to have missed our section.

With his help we did so, and while we had to push a bit, they agreed to reline the sewer at their expense, which they've just done, giving us a shiny new drain and freeing us from the need to use specific brands of paper - any Australian standard loo paper should work just fine ...

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