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Week of 24 March 14: The Alpha and Omega

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I have just returned from two weeks in Guatemala.  This is my fourth trip there in about 2 ½ years.  My focus is construction of modest homes for the indigenous Mayans.  In this process, one of the many “gospels” I preach to my fellow foreigner toilers is the beauty of our wonderful pulp and paper industry.  I find it a great opportunity to spread the word of our industry, just like I do talking about a funny Jewish carpenter that wandered the Mideast a couple of millennia ago. 

My pulp and paper conversations usually get around to this concept:  I propose to them that the first luxury item introduced into any culture is toilet paper, the Alpha if you will.  People smile and laugh, but eventually, after a few minutes of conversation, come around to my way of thinking.  Emboldened, I tell them the next luxury good is feminine sanitary products.  The sequence it quite simple and not sexist: toilet paper affects all the population; feminine sanitary products less than half the population.  After a few more minutes, they have bought my ideas fully and without prejudice. 


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This, of course, allows me to go on and explain more about our great industry, its long history, its environmental conscience and so forth.  People who give our ubiquitous products little thought, leave my conversations, I like to think, a bit wiser about our important products.  Being with these people for a week or so at a time, they will come up to me often and exclaim that they have thought of another paper product in their lives.

Invariably in these conversations, the “dead” grades of paper, particularly newsprint, are often topics.  Yes, we all agree, newspapers in printed form are a dying and nearly dead breed.

However, these days, I have a new twist to add to that, and it’s a twist brought about by someone to whom the pulp and paper industry is greatly indebted—Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. 

Let’s start with why we are indebted to Mr. Bezos.  Mr. Bezos’ Amazon has probably done more for the corrugated container business than anyone else in the history of this product.  The little box containing one or two items has caused an explosion in corrugated box growth.


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But here is the Bezos’ twist.  A few months ago, out of his own pocket, Mr. Bezos purchased the Washington Post.  Why?  He thinks the printed newspaper may become a niche, luxury item.  If he is correct, he has produced the Omega in our column this week.

Isn’t this ironic?  When we think of luxury goods, we think of designer clothes, luxury watches, high end homes and high end automobiles.  What if we can say the luxury goods market is completely bookended by paper products?  What if tissue and newsprint are the Alpha and Omega of luxury goods?  This is a story we should be running with—the luxury goods for everyone, regardless of income, are those made by our wonderful pulp and paper industry.

What are you doing to spread the word about our great industry today?  Let us know in this week’s quiz.  You may take it here.

For safety this week, it is just too obvious—avoid paper cuts!

Be safe and we will talk next week.

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