Human faeces comprises about 30 per cent dead bacteria, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It can also harbour several nasty pathogens such as salmonella, E coli, cryptosporidium and campylobacter, to name just a few.
Yet, apparently, Hong Kong people are very precious about what they use to wipe their bottoms. Recycled toilet paper is almost impossible to find on supermarket shelves here. Worse still, most brands emblazon "100% VIRGIN PULP" over their labels. The packaging of ParknShop's popular budget brand, Select, is decorated with pictures of flowers and greenery. Are people somehow reassured by intimations of verdure having been mulched into the roll?
Quizzed on the issue in the past, supermarket representatives have stated that virgin pulp is popular with Hongkongers "because of the perception that it is cleaner and better quality".
You've got to be kidding me.
A recent United Nations report found that around the world more people now have mobile phones than have access to a flush toilet. Globally, 2.5 billion people, mostly in rural areas, do not have proper sanitation. In addition, 1.1 billion people still defecate in the open. But in Hong Kong, we insist on stuffing virgin resources down our perfectly flushing toilets.
Is such fastidiousness really necessary? My mother tells me that when she was growing up, her family saved money by wiping with newspaper. I asked her if it made her sick. "Never, plus you could read it before you used it!," she replied with great enthusiasm.