Detergent manufacturer comes clean on P secrecy

26 August 2011

In a post towards the end of June this year, I questioned the secrecy behind the decision by Unilever to remove phosphorus from their detergent products without telling anybody.  My comment at that time was “The fact that Unilever chose to make this huge change, so apparently covertly, is curious in the extreme, despite the huge benefits that are likely to accrue.  It would have been so useful if they could have announced this so that measures could be put in place to track the impact of the change, but they inexplicably chose not to“.

Ahead of next Monday’s 50/50 expose on this issue, an article appeared in today’s Mail & Guardian (pg 24) in which Unilever provide a few more details and point out, quite correctly, that as the South African public is largely ignorant about eutrophication and the impacts of elements such as phosphorus in our waterways, they deemed it unnecessary to announce the change.  A company representative said the company had not publicised the initiative because, although it was a positive step in reducing the phosphate load in the environment, “it will not solve the significant challenges South Africa is ­facing with regard to water quality, availability, or the issue of eutrophication, which is complex and challenging.”

The fact that they chose not to tell the WRC research team about this, nor any of the scientists like myself actively lobbying for P-removal, or even the Department of Water Affairs, remains curious.

Apparently there are still some Unilever products with phosphorus in them hanging out in supermarkets here and there – apparently some third party suppliers did not read the memo! (but this does not say much for quality control and ISO and all that, does it?).

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