You may have had luck at the grocery store recently and gotten everything on your list. At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, that probably wasn’t the case. With stay-at-home orders quickly put in place to stop the spread of the virus, many people bought items in bulk. This, of course, led to item shortages. Many of the things that were low in stock in the first half of 2020 are on shelves again. But for others, the restock hasn’t been easy, and a paper towel shortage months ago is still affecting grocery stores.
In July, bulk buying of paper towels went up again, according to CNN, and the demand hurt manufacturing plants. In early August, 21% of all paper products used in the home were not in stock, according to the Wall Street Journal. Although the stocks are slim and there’s an increase in prices, this is still a grocery staple for most households and something that people will continue to buy if they can. (Related: 15 Classic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback.)
Paper towels are produced based on how many the brand thinks people will buy. This meant that when the pandemic began and people bought more than usual, plants couldn’t keep up with the demand. But there are a few ingredients in paper towels, and all are needed to make the product. So if another material is backed up, so are the paper towels. This combined with bulk buying means we have a paper towel shortage.
The easy answer is to simply build more plants to make the towels. However, the machines used to combine wood, printing ink, a water-based adhesive, conditioners, and any other ingredients into paper towels takes years to assemble.
Hopefully, you won’t encounter sky-high prices when you need them next — like some people found on Amazon. One seller was advertising some for $44.95 when the normal price is $15, says the Wall Street Journal.