Procter & Gamble is facing calls to withdraw toilet roll brand Charmin – a major UK product launch – amid industry fears that it could cause serious blockages in sewerage systems.
Industry body the Association of Makers of Soft Tissue Products (AMSTP) has called an emergency meeting – to include representatives from P&G, Kimberly-Clark – producer of Andrex – and SCA Hygiene – maker of Kleenex – at the end of this week.
Charmin, which was launched in the UK in February with a &£27m ad campaign through D’Arcy, is one of P&G’s most significant product initiatives in years.
The brand has a high “wet strength”, making it softer and stronger than competitors, but less soluble in water and more likely to block a pipe or filter, say critics.
Ian Jones, managing director at Kimberly-Clark, says: “We tested it [a high wet-strength product] out several years ago and chose not to go ahead with the launch because of the problems it could create.”
“And the recent tests done by professor Robin Wakelin at Brunel University led us to urge P&G to withdraw the product or remedy the problem.”
Jones is concerned that blockages arising from Charmin could be blamed on Andrex if consumers are using it when the drain overflows.
Dr Stephen Bird, scientific manager at South West Water, says: “Given that the basis of Charmin is to be more resistant to water so that it doesn’t disintegrate so quickly, it will behave differently in a sewer to other toilet tissues.”
Bird has written to John Bailey, technical external relations director at P&G, asking for proof that Charmin will not increase the likelihood of blockage.
A Thames Water spokesman says: “There is water industry concern that Charmin does not biodegrade in the normal way.”
P&G’s Bailey says: “No water company has contacted us with any concerns about Charmin. In the US, we have marketed Charmin with this technology for years.”
But, according to Kimberly-Clark’s research, the “wet strength” of Charmin in the US is only half that of the UK product.