Born in the UK, Wesley Sawkins talks about his preference for bulk buying, his scepticism on presentation and corporates, and his experiences of living in Singapore

TWM 1: What tissue paper products do you use?

“Until I gave this some thought for this interview, I hadn’t realised just how much tissue our household uses. In some ways, now, I wish I hadn’t been given the opportunity, as I have sort of opened a Pandora’s box (see Question 4!)

“Besides the obvious candidates like toilet paper, we use kitchen roll, wet wipes, kitchen surface wipes, polishing wipes, stain removers, shoe polishers and floor cleaners, facial wipes and hand towels, I’m sure there are more. In terms of why we use them, I guess the uniting theme is one of sanitation, but that doesn’t capture it all: surface wipe products are specially designed to attract certain types of particles and so are labour saving. Wet wipes aren’t strictly necessary but are more of a luxury. Often the alternatives to tissue, where they exist, are more time consuming or awkward, and to that extent reflect the modern desire for the convenient and disposable.”

TWM 2: Do you stick to particular brands?

“Branding is not important for us in the more boring aspects of tissue. Typically we will buy bulk and (in the UK) the supermarket’s own brand (albeit the best of their range) for toilet tissue. For the more esoteric products, we will have no doubt been convinced to buy them by advertising and branding. So Flash cleaning wipes and Simple facial towels are generally bought by us because the brand is part and parcel of the product and has informed our need for them.”

TWM 3: Is price more important when buying these products or is quality, or both?

“I think the answer to this follows the same pattern as the answer to the previous question. Typically branded is more expensive and so will be chosen for the more specialist type of tissue product in our house.”
TWM 4: Is it of importance to you if the product is environmentally friendly?

“Regrettably this doesn’t play enough of a feature. This is partly due to a natural scepticism we have about presentation and corporates. When a manufacturer tells us they plant two trees for everyone one they take down, I haven’t taken the time in the past (maybe I should have) to check up on their claims; but I also wonder if this really justifies the pricing point differential against cheaper brands who remain silent on the issue. Generally, however, I believe our move to using tissue more widely in our house is itself an environmental issue we, as a family, haven’t yet really come to terms with. Naturally recycling isn’t an option so we will have to take a serious look into how the tissue is made, transported and packaged and whether we really need it in the first place.”

TWM5: What have you noticed about tissue habits when you’ve travelled abroad?

“When I lived in Singapore, for toilet paper it was always buy in bulk and cheap. No frills, just always there. It’s never a good idea anywhere, but you definitely never want to run out of toilet tissue in Singapore – bidets typically aren’t a feature of bathrooms there, the most you’ll get is a hose by the toilet.

“But I did resort to luxury for some items. For my face I found myself buying little packs of scented, refreshing tissues. These were marvellous in the hot climate and just the ticket for a walk along Orchard Street or in the Botanical Gardens.

“Singapore has embraced the fully flushing toilet. In countries which haven’t, the use of toilet paper gives rise to difficulties. Where the sewage infrastructure of a country doesn’t permit its flushing away, you are politely reminded to use the bin for soiled tissue paper. I’ve seen this in some countries in Asia and Southern Europe. On the other end of the scale are the high tech toilets in Japanese hotel chains. These, you would think, would do away with the need for toilet tissue. There’s always tissue paper to hand, however; it will be some time yet, if ever, that we won’t be reaching for that roll.”

TWM 6: How do you buy your tissue products?

“These days we buy in bulk and on the Internet for convenience and price, even if delivery charges make any savings marginal.”