Why the bidet is making a comeback in coronavirus-stricken West

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Updated 04 April 2020

Why the bidet is making a comeback in coronavirus-stricken West

  • Long a fixture in Arab and Asian toilets, device is now getting a second look in US and Europe
  • Attention to bidets comes as toilet-paper rolls become a symbol of panic buying in the West

WASHINGTON, DC: As the number of COVID-19 cases in the US continues to swell, a declared national emergency and state-wide lockdowns have led to a run on all kinds of products, from face masks and hand sanitizers to bottled water and canned food.

Turning into something of a holy-grail product, toilet paper has become the symbol of panic buying, the new normal in consumer behavior.

Across the US, throngs of patrons are tearing through supermarket aisles, loading toilet paper into overfull shopping carts.

Companies that help supply this everyday paper product were caught flat-footed, as stockpiling has led to shortages resulting in whole aisles being wiped clean.

“The hallmark of a crisis is loss of control, the sense that you have no say over how your life will evolve,” said Adam Alter, author of the marketing book “Irresistible” and a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“One way to take back that control is to find it in places where it still happens to be available, particularly in how you spend your money and the kinds of things you acquire,” he added.

“Toilet-paper hoarding makes sense when you consider that in many — but certainly not all — cultures, there’s no obvious alternative to toilet paper. It serves a purpose that people consider a necessity, and once people begin to hoard toilet paper, they send a signal that the product is scarce and so those necessary needs might not be met.”

FASTFACTS

  • 57 Toilet-paper sheets used daily by avg. American
  • 36 billion Toilet-paper rolls used by Americans yearly
  • 15 million Trees lost to US toilet-paper consumption
  • 253,000 Tons of bleach used in making toilet paper for US

The White House issued a statement urging Americans to ease up on stockpiling: “Supply chains in the United States are strong, and it is unnecessary for the American public to hoard daily essentials.”

The American Forest and Paper Association said in a statement: “Rest assured, tissue products continue to be produced and shipped.”

Such reassurances have fallen on deaf ears. No matter how quickly toilet paper is replenished, it is not staying on shelves for long.The supply chain is strained and production has reached capacity.

That has motivated desperate Americans to look for alternatives, and “very few exist that won’t clog your pipes,” said Alter.

A growing number of people are turning to an Old World device that has finally begun to gain traction in the US: The bidet.




Toilet paper is not staying on supermarket shelves for long and production has reached capacity, motivating customers to look for alternatives. (AFP )

A bidet, popular in the Middle East and parts of Asia, is a bowl designed to be sat on or a water hose for the purpose of washing after using the loo.

During the past couple of months, various bidet manufacturers have been struggling to cope with skyrocketing demand.

“Due to the increase of bidets sales, many items are on backorder or out of stock with all of the main suppliers in the industry,” said hellotushy.com, a company that brands itself as a “team of crusaders, fighting for clean bums and reduced global wastefulness … and ultimately turning people into born-again bidet lovers.”

According to Jason Ojalvo, CEO of Tushy, “Things started ramping up on March 9 and hit an insane high on March 13. We had a few days where we sold over $500,000 a day, including a day where we hit $1 million in sales.”

Born in France in the 1600s, the bidet took centuries before arriving at its present-day version.

Americans were first introduced to the bathroom fixture during World War II. American troops stationed in Europe would often see bidets in the bathrooms of brothels, and so came to associate them with sex work.

Given the country’s puritanical past, the returning troops were reluctant to introduce the device to their homeland. It became associated with sin, French hedonism and sexuality.

The device continued to evolve and morph into different variations, including a mini-shower attachment connected to the toilet.

The popularity of the plumbed bidets spread in Western Europe, the Middle East and Asia, as well as Latin America.

The device is still ubiquitous in Italy, Argentina and many other places, even though it is disappearing from the country where it was created.

In the 1960s, the American Bidet Co. took another run at making the bidet more acceptable to Americans by adding a spritzing function to the seat.

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The original inventor, Arnold Cohen, wanted to change the “habits of a nation, weaning us off” toilet paper.

Although he installed thousands of those seats all over New York, the result was a fiasco.

“Advertising was a next-to-impossible challenge,” Cohen said. “Nobody wants to hear about Tushy Washing 101.”

He gave up and left for Japan, a nation that actually listened to his message.

“Since the late 1800s, we have been led to believe that toilet paper does the job,” Miki Agrawal, the founder of Tushy, told Arab News via email.

“But all it does is cost us money every month (to the tune of billions of dollars per year if you add us all together), kills millions of trees per year, and causes chronic infections and disease down there.

“I mean, would you jump into your shower, NOT turn on the water, and start wiping down your body with dry paper?

“People would call you crazy! So why are we doing that to the dirtiest part of our body? It’s time to upgrade our toilet habit from dry toilet paper to a precise stream of clean water."

For his part, Jim Ace, a senior campaigner and action manager at STAND.earth, cautioned: “It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone has access to clean water, so for some people, bidets simply can’t be part of the solution right now.

“But where possible, bidets are an affordable, environmentally responsible alternative to toilet paper that destroys forests and harms wildlife.

“Our current public-health and economic crisis has motivated Americans to look for alternatives.




A woman carries groceries and toilet paper in New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)

“Charmin toilet paper can cost more than $1 a roll, while portable bidets can cost less than $10 and bidet attachments can cost less than $50.

“Countries around the world already use bidets, and in the US they’re starting to make economic — and environmental — sense.”

Over a year ago, STAND.earth sounded the alarm over the havoc toilet paper was wreaking on the environment.

Largely made of fresh-cut trees, toilet paper involves chopping down globally important forests such as the Boreal in Canada, which has declined more than 9 percent since 2000 from logging.

Toilet paper harms wildlife, causes soil erosion and requires lots of energy, water and chemicals to produce, which in turn pollutes our air, water and climate.

“Wiping our bottoms with fiber made from trees makes no environmental sense,” Ace said. “We’re literally flushing our forests.”


Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

Updated 29 May 2020

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

  • The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament on Thursday failed to approve a draft law on general amnesty, after tensions rose during a vote and the Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, walked out of the legislative session.

“They want to bring us back to square one,” he said. “Every party has its own arguments, as if they want to score points.”

The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty. Minister of Justice Marie Claude Najm, who is affiliated with the FPM, asked for “amendments to the draft law so that it does not include those accused of tax evasion and violating maritime property.”

The draft law was referred to the parliament despite disagreements between parliamentary committees over the basic issue of who should and should not be included in the amnesty. The former government, led by Hariri, proposed a general amnesty law before it resigned last October in the face of mounting pressure resulting from public protests.

There were a number of protests during the legislative session, some opposing the adoption of the law entirely, while others were directed at specific provisions within it.

The draft law includes an amnesty for about 1,200 Sunni convicts, 700 of whom are Lebanese. Some are accused of killing soldiers in the Lebanese Army, possessing, transporting or using explosives, kidnap and participating in bombings.

It was also covers about 6,000 Lebanese Christians, most of whom fled to Israel following the withdrawal of occupying Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon in 2000, as well as nearly 30,000 people from the Bekaa region, the majority of whom are from the Shiite community and wanted for drug trafficking, drug abuse, murder, kidnap, robbery and other crimes.

Hezbollah appeared to agree to a pardon for entering Israel, but object to a pardon for anyone who worked or communicated with the enemy or acquired Israeli citizenship.

Before the session, the Lebanese Order of Physicians highlighted overcrowding in Lebanese prisons, and this health risk this poses during COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are 20 prisons for men, four for women and one juvenile prison holding a total of 8,300 inmates, 57 percent of whom are in the Roumieh Central Prison,” the LOP said. It added that 57 percent of prisoners are Lebanese and 23 percent are Syrian, one third have been convicted while the rest are awaiting trial, and the overcrowding is so bad each prisoner has the equivalent of only one square meter of space. The organization described the situation as “a time bomb that must be avoided.”

In other business during the session, as part of anticorruption reforms required as a condition for receiving international economic aid, the Parliament approved a law to increase transparency in the banking sector, with responsibility for this resting with the Investigation Authority of the Lebanese Central Bank and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

It also endorsed a draft law to create a mechanism for top-level appointments in public administrations, centers and institutions. An amendment was added to prevent ministers from changing or adding candidates for the position of director general. The FPM opposed this, while Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces voted in favor. Hariri accused the FPM of having a “desire to possess the entire country.”

MPs rejected a draft law to allow Lebanon to join the International Organization for Migration because, said MP Gebran Bassil, “it’s unconstitutional and facilitates the accession, integration and settlement process.” Lebanon hosts about 200,000 Palestinian and a million Syrian refugees.

The session sparked a wave of street protests. Some of them, led by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Lebanese Communist Party, opposed the approval of a general amnesty that includes those who fled to Israel.

Protesters burned the Israeli flag in Sidon in protest against a law that “affects Israeli agents who sold their land, fought their people, and plotted against them.” They set up a symbolic gallows on which they wrote: “This is the fate of Zionist agents who fled execution.”

Others, including the families of Muslim detainees, staged demonstrations in support of the amnesty.