Paper towels and hand dryers both come with environmental costs. But there must be a solution for wet hands. Given the choice of which one to use, you must take into account the entire life cycle of each product.
Electric hand dryers use up electricity, but don’t waste paper. Paper towels get thrown away after one use, and clog up our landfills, but work really well. These are the tradeoffs But would you like to know the simple answer?
Use the hand dryer.
It uses less energy when everything is taken into account – and that includes everything. The hand dryer has a simple life cycle, which makes its environmental impact easy to calculate.
Producing an electric hand dryer is where most of the energy costs come from. The metal goods, mechanical parts, and the one-time delivery associated with it take a considerable amount of energy to produce. A typical hand dryer has a lifespan of over ten years, so the energy it takes to produce it can be justified.
Now let’s consider how much electricity is used after the hand dryer is installed; a typical hand dryer takes 30 seconds to clean your hands, which requires about .018 kilowatt-hours of electricity, and if you do that 3 times a day for a year, you run about 19.71 kWh of electricity, and emit 26 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
This is data from a typical hand dryer, but the more advanced hand dryers will cut those numbers in half. The Dyson Airblade claims to use 80% less electricity than the average dryers.
Paper towels require trees and other natural resources to be manufactured. Although some paper towels were meant to be recycled, it is rare to see recycling bins in the bathroom. More often than not they end up in landfills.
Paper towels also have to be restocked frequently, which requires shipping them across the country in trucks. It’s estimated that paper towels use about .13 kWh per use compared to .06 for hand dryers.
Hand dryers are the obvious economical choice. Cost savings add up with less maintenance and lower energy costs. Every business should consider switching to hand dryers to cut costs and reduce their impact on the environment.