Charmin on ICE

Posted: 9 November 2006 in Aracruz, Brazil, Paper consumption, Procter & Gamble, Recycled paper

Until recently, the German ICE (Inter City Express) trains used recycled toilet paper (you know what I mean – toilet paper made from recycled paper, not toilet paper that’s already been used) . That’s now changed. Inside the toilet door on ICE trains is a poster advertising Charmin, Procter & Gamble’s toilet tissue.

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“Time to change” it says. It lets you know that Charmin toilet paper is now available in all ICE trains and that Charmin recently won a test for softness, skin-friendliness, cleaning results (don’t ask how they measured this one) and moisture absorption in comparison with 27 other toilet papers.

The test was carried out by Stiftung Warentest (a consumer protection organisation). Unfortunately, Stiftung Warentest didn’t look at where the raw material for Charmin’s super soft arsewipe comes from. Had they done so they would have found that Procter & Gamble buys eucalyptus pulp from Aracruz Cellulose in Brazil.

Isn’t this just bloody typical? There was no problem with Deutsche Bahn’s recycled toilet paper. Had Deutsche Bahn bothered to look, they would have found that Indigenous People and Quilombolas in Brazil are involved in a land struggle against Aracruz’s eucalyptus monocultures.

How do we in the North justify this one? “We’re sorry to hear that your livelihoods are screwed, your streams have dried up, your land and forests have gone, but we have such tender, delicate bottoms that we just have to have the softest possible toilet paper.”

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Comments
  1. Pedro Andrade says:

    Chris,

    I really like your blog, really great source of environmental info on the industry. This is just a heads up over the indigenous problem with Aracruz. I live in Brazil and have been watching the issue closely through newspapers. Aracruz worries a lot about the livelihood of these peoples, and is really engaged in helping lots of indigenous communities that live close to its forests. The wife of one of the controlling shareholders of the company is personally involved in these activities.

    The indigenous people that are causing the problem have traveled from other places in the country in order to find what is essentially a wealthy victim for blackmail. They are invading not only the forests, but the company’s plants and destroying research material. Their objective is to get “something” in order to stop. Be it money, land or whatever they can get a hold of.

    What looks like a legitimate social request is actually a very simple political crime, and since indigenous people have a lot of legal immunities in Brazil (not to say popular support) the government does nothing. (Very similar to the “Landless” movement here, legitimate up to a certain point, but now simply a source of “leverage” for political criminals who have no interest but their own power against the government.)

    Blame Aracruz if you believe they are cutting forests to start their plantations (but I really think that has not been the case for a long time, there is a lot of grassland in Brazil to serve these companies, mostly from devastation from the 1500s to the 1900s). But this issue with the indigenous is really a political and criminal stunt with no merit.

  2. Now, who’s to be blamed for this?

    Are you suggesting that the guilty ones are P&G businessmen since they paid for this eucalyptus pulp in order to reduce their costs and sell the product at a competitive (lower) price?

    Are you suggesting that the guilty ones are the users of the Toilet Tissue in those trains by ignoring that people is getting endangered by the use of the extra soft tissue?

    But what about suggesting a solution to be found were the Brazilian government ensures the protection of the indigenous rights to the land and property. Plus, letting them learn and sell the eucalyptus pulp at a competitive price that will render them more economic benefits.

    Why it is that people thinks that just because they are indigenous and poor they cannot make a profit from the resources they have? They can be the healthiest and richest indigenous in those areas of Brazil if they have a protection for their rights and people like us teach them how to invest and sell their products.

    Meanwhile, how nice you have extra soft tissue in the trains! Somehow, that is not a problem but the means how it gets there may be ones to worry about.

  3. Chris Lang says:

    Thanks for the comments, Guillermo and Pedro. Since I wrote this post several things have happened.

    – ICE has stopped using Charmin toilet paper in its trains.

    – P&G has sold its European tissue operations to SCA.

    – And most importantly, on 27 August 2007, the Brazilian Government recognised the right of the Tupinikim and Guarani to their lands – at the same time recognising that these lands had been illegally occupied by Aracruz for the last 40 years. More information here.

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