More Than Tissues in a Box of Kleenex

Kimberly-Clark has battled Greenpeace over recycled fibers in products.
Kimberly-Clark has battled Greenpeace over recycled fibers in products. (By Lisa Poole -- Associated Press)
By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 16, 2008

The battle over the environment has found a new front: the inside of a Kleenex box.

"Wiping away ancient forests," warned a note found inside a box bought recently at a drug store in New York by a stuffy-nosed reporter. "Here's a little secret that Kimberly-Clark, the largest tissue maker in the world and parent company of Kleenex, does not want you to know."

The not-so-secret secret is that Kimberly-Clark has been fighting with Greenpeace for nearly three years over recycled fibers in its products. Greenpeace says the company is destroying the boreal forest of Canada; Kimberly-Clark says it has begun testing new tissues made with recycled materials. But the bigger mystery is how the leaflet got into the box.

"We take any and all comments about any foreign materials in products extremely seriously," said David Dickson, a spokesman for Kimberly-Clark.

He then called corporate security.

Dickson said the company has received a handful of calls about the leaflets. None of the leaflet incidents could be confirmed, he said. In one case, a caller complained about the leaflets but left a telephone number that led to a Greenpeace office.

The note found by a reporter purportedly came from Greenpeace and referred to its nearly three-year "Kleercut" campaign against the company, which has included disrupting Kleenex commercials as they were being taped in a public area and driving around in a truck shaped like a giant Kleenex box. Greenpeace's forests campaigner, Rolf Skar, said the leaflet tactic was not officially sanctioned.

"I think it's sort of funny," Skar said. "It's a new way of engaging directly with consumers."

Greenpeace has many vigilante supporters who sometimes take issues into their own hands, Skar said, adding that he has heard of targeted boxes in the United States and Canada. It was unclear if the leaflets were put in the boxes at stores or during the manufacturing process.

Dickson dismissed the idea of a Greenpeace mole in one of Kimberly-Clark's plants. Tissues are packed into boxes at the rate of 250 to 300 per minute, and any deviation would slow the process and set off alarms, he said.

The leaflets may be part of a trend known as "shopdropping," in which people leave items at a store, the reverse of shoplifting. Items left on store shelves have included the business cards of personal trainers tucked into weight-loss books and CDs of unsigned musicians.

A reporter was able to slide a folded piece of paper underneath the perforated cardboard of an unopened box of Kleenex. With a little manipulating, it may be possible to insert the paper so that it lies on top of the tissues.

Dickson was dubious.

"For the life of me, I guess I'm struggling to figure out how anything, if you will, will get inside a Kleenex box," he said.

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