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    The environmental impact of electric hand dryers versus paper towels

     

    At Ecoprod one of our main aims is to help washroom environments become more sustainable. All the products we sell help our customers save water and / or save energy. As well as waterless urinals and sensor taps we also offer a range of electric hand dryers. The environmental benefits of waterless urinals and sensor taps are pretty clear cut but the case for electric hand dryers is more complex as there are so many different factors that need to be taken into account. That said, we firmly believe that electric hand dryers are the more environmentally sound choice. In this blog post I’m going to discuss the reasons why.

    The environmental impact of paper towels

    There are two main aspects of the environmental impact of paper towels that need to be considered. Firstly, the impact associated with the manufacturing of the towels and secondly how the towels are disposed of.

    Clearly the manufacturing of paper towels has a significant environmental impact. Firstly, trees must be destroyed to provide the raw materials for the towels. Secondly, there’s the environmental impact associated with transporting that wood to factories and the cost of the manufacturing process itself. One could argue that deforestation is not such a high concern as the raw materials for paper towels generally come from commercial sustainable forests. However, the environmental impact of the transportation and manufacturing process definitely can’t be ignored.

    Another environmental consideration with paper towels is what happens to them after they are used. Although possible in theory, in practice relatively few paper towels are recycled. For the most part, they get sent to landfill where they decompose slowly over time. Contrary to what many people think, paper towels don’t break down quickly or easily. They tend to retain their original structure for a long time. Then, as they begin to break down, they release harmful greenhouse gases such as methane into the atmosphere. One paper towel dispenser, used 200 times per day, will create 1,800 lbs of paper towel waste each year, so across an entire organisation the waste generated this way is very significant.

    The environmental impact of electric hand dryers

    Whilst there’s a significant environmental impact associated with paper towels, clearly electric hand dryers also have an impact that we shouldn’t ignore, however this impact is significantly less than many people think. For example, the Mitsubishi Jet Towel Slim requires only 1,250 watts to dry hands in just 10 seconds, and the Jet Towel mini uses only 890 watts. We’d expect a typical hand dryer installation to last at least ten years.

    We estimate that users of the Mitsubishi Jet Towel can reduce the carbon footprint associated with hand drying by 85%. This is because the CO2 emissions associated with transporting the product are so much less for the hand dryer. Once the hand dryer is installed, that’s it. Nothing more is required in terms of transportation, whereas the paper towels represent an ongoing (and everlasting) cost in this regard. Additionally, there’s no rubbish associated with electric hand dryers and, as discussed above, the waste disposal implications of paper towels are very significant indeed. Switching to hand dryers reduces massively the amount of rubbish going into landfill and the amount of greenhouse gases associated with hand drying.

    Find out more

    Contact us to find out more about our range of electric hand dryers or to arrange a trial installation for your premises.

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