The Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA) have moved to quell any fears that the country’s supply of toilet paper will be disrupted by the 21-day national lockdown.
PAMSA have assured the South African public that paper and related industries will continue to function to ensure the continued manufacture of essential goods, including hospital gowns and masks, and personal hygiene products.
“The pulp, paper, packaging, recycling and tissue value chains will continue to operate as a ‘critical business continuity service’ supporting the manufacturing, processing and distribution of essential goods and services during the lockdown,” PAMSA said in a statement to the press.
“The sector provides wood and recycled paper fibre for the production of essential goods such as tissue, toilet paper, paper packaging, hospital gowns and masks, and personal hygiene products.”
There is no toilet paper shortage
PAMSA puts images of supermarket shelves emptied of toilet paper down to a ‘consumer behavioural issue’, suggesting panic buyers may have cleared shelves, but supplies would soon be replenished. With the transport of products proving problematic panic buying creates an entirely unnecessary problem for retailers many of whom have introduced caps on certain essential goods.
“Never before has toilet paper enjoyed such publicity,” said Jane Molony, PAMSA executive director. “Any perceived shortage of toilet paper in the shops is more a consumer behavioural issue than it is a production issue.”
Molony urged calmer consumer behaviour to avoid any shortages in the supply of paper products.
“There is availability of product further up the supply chain ‒ the challenge is getting it to the consumer amid tissue manufacturers also trying to limit COVID-19 exposure for their own workers.
“Buying more than you need only fuels the panic buying cycle and disrupts supply chains.”
Production of tissue products ramped up
Molony has urged South Africans to continue to properly sort their refuse, particularly waste paper which is used to manufacture toilet tissue and paper packaging products.
“South African tissue manufacturers make almost all of the toilet tissue consumed in the country, and they have ramped up production to meet increased demand with many operating at full capacity.
“Tissue produced locally contains approximately 76% recycled fibre content, with the balance comprising virgin wood pulp from sustainably grown trees and to a smaller degree, bagasse (sugar cane waste).
“Smaller tissue mills that rely on recovered office paper – a common ingredient in tissue products – may be faced with a shortage as offices and businesses shut down. [We urge] consumers to continue separating paper and cardboard at source during the lockdown.
“According to preliminary figures that PAMSA collects on an annual basis, 248 153 tonnes of tissue were produced locally during 2019. This went into the production and conversion of toilet tissue, facial tissue, industrial towelling and kitchen towelling.”
Paper packaging vital for supply chain efficiency
PAMSA report that most packaging plants in South Africa are working at full capacity to ensure paper-based packaging gets to their customers in essential sectors.
“Packaging is a vital element in the supply chain, especially for the uninterrupted distribution of food, medical and health supplies,” said Molony who added that the 1.4 million tonnes of packaging papers made in South Africa comprise 56.4% recycled content.
“Our sector is falling in line with Government’s regulations, while also adapting its operations according to the local and global recommendations to minimise risk for suppliers, employees and customers,” notes Molony.
PAMSA say they will continue working remotely to support the sector.
“We would like to thank the people in our industry for their dedication and commitment during these extraordinary times,” Molony added