NC toilet paper maker: ‘We can’t keep up with demand’

SPINDALE, N.C. (WJZY) – Another massive rush on rolls of toilet paper has wiped out the bath tissue at stores across the region. Now local manufacturers are racing to keep up with the demand and make sure shelves stay stocked.

“We’re running 24/7,” said Cardinal Tissue owner Vince Reese. “We can’t keep up with all of the demand.”

This week, WJZY found store after store sold out, or nearly out, of toilet paper and paper towels. So we took a trip to Cardinal Tissue’s manufacturing plant, located about 70 miles west of Charlotte, to find out why this is happening and what the industry is doing.

Reese gave us a tour of his 150,000 square foot facility. He makes toilet paper and paper towels and right now business is booming.

“Kind of a repeat at a faster pace of what we saw in April,” he said, describing the current shortage.

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This new run on toilet paper, he thinks, is linked to record spikes in coronavirus cases across the country.

“You’re starting to see things shut down again and people worried about being kind of contained for a period of time,” said Reese. “So, they’re preparing for that. And part of that preparation is making sure they have enough toilet paper.”

Underneath a large American flag, automated machines convert 35 tons of paper into tissue product, filling six tractor trailers a day. That gets sent out to regional stores and some national chains.

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About 20-30 percent more product is going out now, industry wide, to keep up with the rising demand, Reese estimates. He has ordered new equipment which he hopes will double the amount of product he can produce, turning out as much as four million cases a year.  

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“Absolutely it will help,” he said of the new equipment, which was purchased before the pandemic.

While it will help, he thinks the current shortage could last through the winter.

“I think it’s going to have a lot to do with the amount of time people spend in their homes,” he said.

This time around, he says suppliers are better prepared to handle the demand. The bottom line: only buy what you need.

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To avoid hoarding and shelf clearing, which lead to price gouging earlier this year, retailers like Publix, Target and Harris Teeter are once again limiting how much toilet paper customers can buy.

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Cleaning supplies are also running out online. Amazon says it is working with manufacturers to get items like disinfecting wipes, paper towels and hand sanitizer back in stock.

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