Hoarding of toilet paper started in early February 2020 in Hong Kong after consumers panicked themselves into believing that the coronavirus outbreak in China would disrupt supplies. Within days, toilet paper shelves were empty in the supermarkets. Social media helped fuel the hoarding, which quickly spread across the world from Sydney to London to Washington DC.
There was no actually shortage in terms of the pulp and paper industry’s ability to manufacture toilet paper. The industry ramped up production and watched its profits soar.
The shares price of Vinda International Holdings, a major Asian tissue products company, increased by 48% in the first months of 2020, as the South China Morning reported.
There is an increased demand for tissue and hygiene products on account of the COVID-19 pandemic situation. A significant amount of these products contains recycled paper using the FSC Mix and FSC Recycled labels. Companies are now beginning to see a shortage of recycled fibre to use in these products due to supply constraints and travel restrictions in many areas of the world arising out of the COVID-19 situation. FSC has issued a derogation (FSC-DER-2020-003) describing how companies can use virgin fibre for tissue and hygiene products carrying the FSC Recycled label.
It states that,
Due to the logistical and practical difficulties that do not permit changing of packaging material at short notice, there are requests from organizations to allow substitution of recycled fibre with virgin fibre in products carrying the FSC Recycled label. This is expected to be a short-term measure till the COVID-19 situation improves and relevant supply chains and volumes can be re-established.
The Policy and Standards Unit at FSC will allow up to 50% virgin fibre to be used in products carrying the FSC Recycled label.
The derogation will remain in place until at least 30 June 2020. The FSC Recycled label is currently deceiving consumers, and is in effect completely meaningless.