Paper towels least green way to dry hands, study says

… at least in public restrooms.

A study commissioned by hand dryer manufacturer Dyson says that paper towels and conventional hand dryers produce at least 70% more carbon emissions than Dyson’s own air-driven hand dryer, the Airblade.

But even if true, few will do that calculus. The Dyson Airblade, as cool as it is, costs about $1,600 vs. a conventional hand dryer costing $300 or less vs. paper towels which are dirt cheap… and there are potentially other issues involved. Plus we have no problem with carbon emissions.

It’s too bad that Dyson, which makes terrific but pricey products, can’t figure out a way to make its products more competitive without using junk science to bash competitors.

Read The Guardian report on Dyson’s study.

7 thoughts on “Paper towels least green way to dry hands, study says”

  1. Screw the CO2 – go with paper towels if you value your health. I was a sanitary engineer for 40 years, and I have a good handle on the health risks of poor hygiene.

    A quarter to a third of all people don’t wash their hands after using public restrooms. I’ve actually heard guys from a major food corporation headquarters sitting on a public john discussing business nonstop on their cell phones, right through the flushing phase, and leave the restroom while zipping up yet didn’t wash their hands! I was flabbergasted! It’s no wonder that possibly the worst, filthiest bacteria-infested location in public areas is found to be the restroom exit and stall door handles.

    That’s where paper towels come into play. If I’m in a non-automatic faucet situation, I’ll turn the faucet on, scrub up and wash, then grab a paper towel to turn the faucet off. Hey, that’s where the bacteria are when I turned the darned thing on! I then dump that paper towel and use another to open the restroom exit door.

    If I don’t know the rest room, I’ll bring some paper napkins with me from the restaurant. They’ll do as a substitute for paper towels.If the paper towel dispenser is not one of the motion sensor activated units, I’ll use my elbow to activate the manual dispenser lever.

    As for hand air driers, if that’s the only game in town, I’ve literally waited until someone else pushed open the exit door. Hey, I’m going to be holding hands with my wife in a minute, so I can wait!

    Sounds fanatical? I’ve slogged through almost every form of human detritus and waste you can imagine, managed the risks of exposure, and my health has always been fine. But public restrooms are a minefield of health risks.

  2. I seriously doubt MIT did an honest assessment. While it is acknowledged that paper plants have CO2 emissions, most of this is from “renewable” energy sources (hog fuel and process byproduct biomass). Also, did MIT account for the fact that the carbon in the paper towels from trees ultimately in large part becomes “sequestered” in land fills? This leaves the electricity to power plant unit operations (I suppose they assumed it all is generated by coal) and diesel fuel for transportation and on-site machinery as net positive CO2 contributors. I suppose overall it is a net positive CO2 emitting industry. But I also believe it would beat the Dyson model if the paper towels were blended with coal to offset CO2 from electricity, it it does not already.

  3. “Green” is one thing – good hygiene is another.
    People who put ‘greenness’ first put a lower premium on hygiene, as we are now seeing in the ‘occupy’ protests.

  4. Paper towels spread the least number of germs while are dryers are contaminated with and spread a host of dust, germs and human hair. Good try though, I will buy one as soon as the lottery comes through.

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