The Future of Toilet Paper

Aren’t You Glad Toilet Paper is Derived from a Renewable Resource? Toilet paper shortages are a difficult thing to think about … so I won’t think about it … no, I can’t help it.

Actually, I foresee a time when we will either develop a toilet paper (TP) substitute, possibly a recyclable fabric, or come up with an improved version, possibly with molecular-level antibacterial capabilities (some plastics used in children’s toys, supermarket carts, and medical equipment already have this characteristic).  At some point paper making might be banned or otherwise out of the question EXCEPT for the manufacture of TP.  It might be made from specially farmed trees under government license or control in an era when a permit is required to even touch a tree, as their limited numbers and recognized importance to the environment have motivated much legislation to preserve them.  TP might be knitted at the molecular level using nano or microtechnology machines, or genetically grown by specially engineered plants. 

Another thought occurs to me – will there be huge price increases for toilet paper, similar to what we’re going through with petroleum products in 2008?  Will the pursuit of substitutes be the impetus behind big research projects?  Will the global market for TP be tracked on Wall Street and similar places?  Will shiploads of TP be tracked as economic indicators, and the loss of a cargo be reported in the popular media?

If there is no TP, though, there is always that famous French invention that has almost no penetration into North American markets (as far as I’ve seen), the bidet.  The wikipedia article is pretty comprehensive, and, after reading it, I have to think maybe this is the way we will eventually go.

Here I am going to display my own North-American late-20th century-bred ignorance.  I am somewhat ashamed to admit to it, but I also feel very Very lucky to be able to be so ignorant.  (Sequemishness around the topic may be a factor, too.)    In researching how we will handle possible supply and demand issues around such an important commodity, I finally gained a bit of knowledge around what people did (besides the bidet) before TP, or do where it isn’t available or affordable … I was having trouble imagining it for myself.  (I’m also reluctant to imagine what life was like before deodorants, or bathing … though bathing is such a basic function to all mammals … we must have been doing something there …)  In any case, if you are interested, I’ve placed links to some of my information sources below.

Your comments are always appreciated.

Interesting reading:
Disaster Preparedness – Coping without Toilet Paper, no date, Robert Rister,
The Bidet, November 2007, Wikipedia
Toilet Paper Isn’t Even Necessary, January 9, 2007, Rob _____ ?, at the Change Everything blog
The Year Without Toilet Paper, March 22, 2007, Penelope Green, NY Times


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