Across the continent supermarket shelves are empty, schools are closed and people are being told to stay indoors.
Surfing is banned in France, Spain Portugal and beyond while in Blighty lineups overflow, at least for the time being, with surfers ‘working from home’.
For some reason no one quite seems to be able to work out, toilet roll has been the product hardest hit by panic buying. We sort of get it; if you’re stuck in your home for two weeks and can’t leave you might need a slightly larger stockpile than usual. But that doesn’t explain why herds of people around the world have been spotted leaving shops, arms overflowing with several dozen bog rolls.
Some of it is down to shameless profiteering, with the Guardian reporting yesterday that packs of 48 rolls (!!) are currently being snapped up for triple their retail value on Ebay.
In the same article, the paper explains how this behaviour is forcing people to substitute other products, such as kitchen roll and wet wipes, for their ablutionary needs, which in turn could overwhelm the UK sewage system.
“If kitchen towels, baby wipes or industrial papers are used as a replacement for toilet paper, our sewage systems could readily become blocked with the resulting chaos and increased health risks associated with this,” Wilding, a professor of supply chain strategy at Cranfield School of Management told the paper. “Ultimately, water companies may not have the infrastructure and equipment to unblock the sewer system.”
Thames Water echoed the prof’s words, warning people not to feed the fatbergs (masses of congealed fat and other non-degradable products which create sewer blockages) with toilet paper substitutes.
As an amusing a sentence and sentiment as that is, in reality, the build-up of fatbergs and the pressure they exert on sewage systems can have pretty serious consequences, especially for surfers.
When the normal sewage pipes are blocked, backed up or overwhelmed, combined sewer overflows are activated to prevent waste from spurting back out of toilets and drains. These CSOs direct the untreated waste out into rivers and beaches and the more blocked the sewers become, the more sewage flows out.
Unlike many of the more complex issues surrounding Corona and its impact on society, the advice to alleviate this particular bind is pretty bleeding obvious; don’t buy more toilet roll than you need and don’t put any alternatives down the toilet.
It would be great, when all this is over, if we still had some sewage free lineups to frolic in.
Cover photo: SAS