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What's Better For The Environment? Paper Towels or Air Hand Dryers?

You might have noticed that public places in your community are switching from paper towels to hand dryers. If you have used the restroom at a public school, restaurant, or government building like the DMV recently, you’ve probably noticed that instead of offering paper towels, there’s a hand dryer on the wall. The question still remains. What’s better for the environment: paper towels or hand dryers?

Paper Towels

Aside from the sheer use of plant products that paper towels require, it is important to consider the many side effects that come from over-reliance on paper towels. After you throw those paper towels in the garbage, they wind up at a landfill, where greenhouse gases like methane are produced during decomposition. In addition to this waste are plastic trash can liners, which do not decompose and are replaced when filled time and again.

Converting trees into paper towels and the packaging and transportation required to ship them and bring them to the landfill after they’ve been used consumes a staggering amount of fossil fuel, which has an enormous negative impact on the environment. The energy-intensive process required to produce paper towels can cause harmful pollutants to seep into nearby water sources, further harming the environment.

Hand Dryers

There is no question that electric hand dryers are the more eco-friendly solution. On average, a warm air hand dryer only needs to be replaced once every ten years. Think of the sheer volume of paper towels that will have been used in the same bathroom over the course of that decade! The difference is staggering. That being said, hand dryers are not without environmental setbacks. An average dryer uses 0.018-kilowatt hours of electricity for 30 seconds use, requiring over 2,000 watts of power to run. This can result in up to 30 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per day. Now multiply that times the number of public bathrooms in your state alone. That’s a serious carbon footprint!

The Moral Of The Story

The next time you find yourself washing your hands in a public restroom and you’re confronted with the choice between using paper towels or an electric dryer to dry your hands, ask yourself this important question. Can I simply just let my hands air dry? Sometimes you can! Even one individual choosing to air dry can make a positive impact. If you absolutely must, be conscious of how many paper towels you use or for how long you run the dryer. Chances are, one paper towel or one run through the dryer is enough to get the job done.

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