Where is all the toilet paper and when will it be restocked? The answer is not simple

KSAT News at 9 examines toilet paper shortage during COVID-19 pandemic

When will the toilet paper supply return to normal?

SAN ANTONIO – When the coronavirus pandemic started, toilet paper was one of the first things to fly off store shelves.

It’s a basic necessity, relatively cheap to buy in bulk and does not have an expiration date.

But as many of us have noticed, panic buying has caused major problems in the supply chain.

Americans make up less than five percent the world’s population, but we use more toilet paper than any other country.

In 2018, data website Statista reported that on average we go through 2.7 rolls of toilet paper per week.

According to the Atlantic, global toilet paper sales were estimated at $12 billion in 2017 and Americans accounted for $5.7 billion of that total.

And last month, the Associated Press reported that toilet paper sales nationally jumped about 213% in the week ending March 14 compared to the same period a year before.

Stores have struggled to keep TP in stock with this massive demand.

Major suppliers have ramped up operations at their paper mills, but companies such as Georgia Pacific, the maker of brands like Quilted Northern and Angel Soft, have said it is uncertain when things will go back to normal.

Americans still use about the same amount of toilet paper as we did before the pandemic, but now we’re using more of our own supply.

Restaurants and schools are closed, and many people are working from home so we are not using toilet paper from other locations.

Georgia-Pacific has estimated that the average American household will use about 40 percent more toilet paper than usual if people spend all their time at home.

The problem seems to be just as bad online. Amazon, Walmart, Target and H-E-B stores have been overwhelmed with of orders.

Despite the gloom and doom surrounding toilet paper, there is some good news.

Most toilet paper sold in the United States is made at paper mills in North America, which means stores are stocked more often and there is not much disruption from companies overseas.

When the pandemic swept the globe, videos circulated online of people reportedly fighting over toilet paper in stores.

The BBC also reported armed robbers stole hundreds of toilet paper rolls in Hong Kong.

People in the US for the most part have remained patient.

Locally, H-E-B has repeatedly reassured their customers they are fully stocked and not to panic buy.

There are other options if you are desperate for toilet paper. You can buy commercial-grade TP from companies that sell in bulk or supply restaurants.

You can also support San Antonio restaurants that have shifted to selling items that including toilet paper and paper towels. Mi Tierra and many others have set up pop-up shops with pantry and other household items for sale.

It might not be the softest, but with so little TP on store shelves at the moment, it’s one of the few options.


About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.

Valerie Gomez is the lead video editor and graphic artist for KSAT Explains. Before starting at KSAT in 2017, she worked as a video editor for KENS 5 and KVUE in Austin. She graduated from Texas State University in 2013 with a bachelor's in mass communication and is a product of SAISD and the South Side of San Antonio. She loves Jeff Goldblum.