The Great Bog Roll Fallacy

I have been lurking around the various discussion groups about the Jamboree, and spotted, what I think is a false top tip. In the spirit of my favourite TV Show, I am here to bust that myth.

This is a slightly tongue in cheek post, but I think does serve an important purpose. This particular “top tip” appears before just about every major event I’ve ever been on in one form or another, and whilst well meaning, I’m not sure it’s particularly good advice.

I am of course talking about the Great Bog Roll Fallacy.

As I said, it crops up before just about every event. Without fail someone decided to impart something that was once imparted unto them, and I paraphrase:

“As soon as you get to the site, go to the toilet block and take a toilet roll. Put it in your backpack and carry it round with you. That way you’re guaranteed to have it when you need it.”

On the surface, this seems a somewhat sensible suggestion. There will be occasions where the toilets are out of commission because there are fewer bog-rolls than there are toilets. Having your own, independent, supply is fairly forward thinking. Be Prepared, Skills for Life, She’ll be right Bruce, etc.

The problem is, that scenario is likely to be about two hours into day 1 of the Jamboree if everyone follows that advice. Simply, if even a significant proportion of those attending followed this advice, the jamboree site would run out of bog roll overnight. Between pilfering and legitimate usage.

Because the Internet is a weird and wonderful thing, I’ve found a website with some statistics about toilet roll use.

It suggests that the average person uses around 2 toilet rolls per week. Given there’s about 50,000 folk going to be on site for near enough two weeks, we’re talking about 200,000 toilet rolls being on site for the Jamboree. I’d guess the actual number is closer to half a million with all the day visitors, VIPs and a sizeable contingency – because lets face it, who wants 50,000 Scouts and Guides to run out of toilet roll.

This sounds a lot. It is a lot. With an average mass per roll of 0.227Kg (again, I love the internet…) that’s between 45 and 112 Tonnes of toilet paper. Based on the average dimensions of 11cm diameter (5.5cm radius) and 10cm length a volume of a single toilet roll (2πr(^2)l) is 346 cubic centimetres, which multiplied up (and allowing for packaging/pallets etc.) is the equivalent of between 2 and 5 standard 40ft ISO Containers rammed full of the stuff. To put it another way, between 2 and 5 articulated lorries of bog roll.

A Standard 40ft ISO Container. Image Courtesy of Cleveland Containers

For this reason, I rather suspect that not all the rolls will be on site for day one. They are likely to be part of phased, scheduled deliveries, with a quantity arriving either daily or every couple of days so that quantities can be adjusted as necessary.

Which means, there is not likely to be enough toilet rolls on site for one each at any one point. Suggesting, if people start “misappropriating” toilet rolls, then we may end up with issues across the site. Issues where the brown sticky stuff has hit the big whirly thing, in a manner of speaking.

As toilets use up all their roll, they become less used, meaning a greater burden is put upon those which are still in use. This leads to increased queues for the toilets. As toilets are used more, and more, and more, they become what I can only call “grim”. There were certain toilets in Japan, through overuse and the heat, that I’m fairly sure score as illegal in terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and certainly the Geneva Convention.

We have the advantage at this Jamboree, that the toilets are permanent features, rather than the plastic hot-boxes we may be used to in the UK at big events and festivals. This might make them better. We shall see.

I am reliably informed that this is a toilet block

What I’m trying to get across is that the offered “Top Tip” is meant well, and it kinda makes sense. But taking a toilet roll from the site to carry round with you is going to have knock on effects. We have all (well, most of us) promised to be Friendly and Considerate as part of our Scout Law, pilfering bog roll is not being this.

It also puts undue pressure on the Bog Squad. I’m not sure of the exact arrangements, but these could be IST just like me and my friends, who have paid a huge sum of money to go and become intimately familiar with the U-bend of toilets in a foreign field. These guys don’t have a great job, so if we can make it as easy for them as possible, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

So, what can I suggest?


Bring Your Own Bog(roll).

We will be passing shops and supermarkets on our way to the Jamboree. The Units will be in New York prior to going to the site, and the Independent Travelling IST will be, well, all over the USofA and further afield. Buy some bog roll whilst you’re out and about. Get a couple of bigs packs as a Unit, it’ll be less than a dollar each if everyone chips in.

It might take up 0.227Kg of your luggage allowance, but if you have a particularly favourite brand, it might not be available in the USA, and having a roll of Andrex ultra-quilted (or whatever, I am, surprisingly, not a connoisseur of bog roll) might be something that’s useful to have.

Given the other uses of toilet paper, from blowing your nose through to first aid equipment or wiping surfaces down, it’s probably something useful to have about the site.

This will ease the use of such a vital commodity on the Jamboree site, and mean that when toilets do start running out, you’ll have a spare in your rucksack that lets you jump to the front of the queue.

The other point I’d like to make is simply, “Be careful what you read on the Internet”. It’s a great and powerful tool – who knew there were websites devoted to statistics about toilet paper! – but it’s easy to read advice that appears useful at first glance but actually has consequences you might not have thought about.

I include this site and my blogs as part of that, All three of us here are writing in good faith, using my experiences to try and help folk. Doesn’t always mean we’re right. I would like to think we’re helping, but it’s up to you to decide if what we’re writing is useful and/or relates to you!

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