These photos are from public restrooms and show several alternatives for hand drying. Each solution has its pros and cons and consideration should be given for the proper method to suit the intended purpose. The photo on left shows a common paper towel dispenser where a stack of folded paper towels is dispensed one at a time in a similar fashion to a tissue box. Often, the towels will pull out in a bunch and drop into the waste receptacle or worse, on the floor as you can see in the photo. This method has several significant disadvantages. First, the towels must be loaded manually and the paper waste removed, which can consume significant labor from cleaning crews. In addition, the paper uses a significant amount of fossil fuels and electricity in the processing of pulp wood into paper, packaging, and transport to the point of use. Furthermore, the paper is disposed in the trash and will end up in a landfill. In restrooms with large volumes, the paper waste can be significant. Its advantage is that it has an economical upfront cost.
The center photo shows an automatic paper towel dispenser that utilizes a roll of paper. This solution has the advantage of a hands-free touch-free sensor for dispensing the towel in a predetermined length appropriate for the need, thus reducing paper. It is also a less energy intensive way to produce and package the paper. The towels can still require significant fossil fuel to harvest, produce, and transport, and the towels can still end up on the floor.
The photo on the right shows an electric hand dryer using a high speed air stream to evaporate the water from hands. While this solution does use fossil fuel electricity, the power is only used for a brief time and is more efficient in saving energy costs and has less impact to the environment. These new models of air dryers are much better at drying than the older versions that heated hands rather than forcing water from hands. Some disadvantages are that they have a significant upfront cost which may be prohibitive unless used for high volume restrooms. Other disadvantages are potential splatter of water droplets and their noise level.
There are several hand drying solutions available today and the factors for consideration are upfront cost, labor intensity, fossil fuel use, disposal costs, infection control, noise, and mess. Think carefully about your intended application and the proper balance of these solutions.
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