Public restrooms have been at the center of some serious debates recently. And the results from one of those debates could have a lasting impact on the most important space within your building.
I know what you’re thinking. Google it, and you’ll quickly find some studies that will get to the bottom of the issue — studies conducted by some reputable outfits that will definitively state the best option.
Unfortunately, most of what you’ll find will certainly appear definitive, but some careful scanning will reveal the study’s sponsor: a paper towel manufacturer or a hand dryer manufacturer.
So in this debate, separating sponsored content from independent content is the key. Some help has arrived in the form of Bradley Corporation’s annual Healthy Hand washing Survey. Some of the key findings in Bradley’s survey demonstrate the multi-functionality of the age-old paper towel:
Bradley’s survey found that 56% of restroom-goers use a paper towel for more than one purpose — first to dry hands, and second, to avoid touching the door handle on their way out. Suddenly, paper towels transform into a utility.
They’re used for a wide variety of purposes ranging from a dryer of hands to germ remover and barrier. In schools and offices, paper towels are used to soak up spills and wipe off potential stains. They can be an emergency coffee filter, a corn cleaning tool (who would have known?), and a moisture absorber in a bag of lettuce. In fact the uses for paper towels can get crazy:
Beyond its status as a utility player, paper towel is the appropriate choice in applications such as food handling, where it is undesirable to have jets of air potentially blowing, and spreading, contaminants throughout the area.
Handwashing has widely been called a “do it yourself vaccine.” And hand drying is an extension of the washing process where the goal is final germ and contaminant removal along with fast drying times. When a user walks away with partially wet hands, that person is likely to finish drying on an apron or some other soiled surface that works against the cause of hand hygiene.
While paper towel usage helps to avoid the airborne spread of contaminants and provides the fastest drying times, there are specific choices to be made if you’re looking to lessen your environmental impact.
- Choose a paper towel product that provides the highest amount of recycled content. 1 ton of paper towel produced from virgin fiber requires the consumption of 24 trees, while 1 ton of 100% recycled product requires 0 trees to be consumed. In fact, the differences between the two options are even greater when looking at the energy required for production, greenhouse gasses, wastewater, and solid waste generated.
- Choose a product that has obtained third-party certifications to verify a lesser impact on the environment. Labels to watch for include:
The Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) program is a part of EPA’s ongoing intention to increase the use of recovered materials from recycling facilities. The program designates products that can be made with recycled materials and helps reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. In addition, the guidelines recommend a set of best practices for materials’ reuse. The products range across eight categories, including construction, landscaping, paper, transportation and more.
EcoLogo Certification is a multi-attribute certification that speaks to the reduced environmental impact of the products, services, and packaging. This voluntary certification program examines the environmental impact over the entire lifecycle of the product and indicates it has been subjected to rigorous scientific testing in order to demonstrate compliance with tough third-party environmental performance standards. EcoLogo Certification applies to everything from building materials and furniture to cleaning products, paper products, and toys.
Green Seal Certified products and services enable the consumer to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to health and the environment. The Green Seal mark shows compliance with a strict set of criteria designed to reduce the health and environmental impact of cleaning products and services and are non-toxic. Green Seal products can assist your project team in fulfilling the requirements of various credits across LEED rating systems and provide an integral part of your company’s green cleaning policy.
As a utility player, paper towel can fill a lot of gaps in your facility. In the restroom, paper towel provides noiseless dispensing that dries hands completely and quickly. And when a user wants to avoid the door handle on her way out of the restroom, how can she use a hand dryer?