By Dan Storto, President, World Dryer Corporation.
When it comes to conserving natural resources and promoting sustainable practices, convenience store owners should avoid falling for the misconception that having paper towels in their restrooms is good for the environment. While it is true that paper is a renewable resource, consideration has to be given to the environmental impact of producing the paper towel as well as disposing of it once it is used.
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, producing a single ton of paper requires 7,000 gallons of water, 360 gallons of oil, 158 million BTUs of energy and as much as two to four tons of trees. And while it is possible to make paper towels from recycled paper, they are rarely actually recycled and instead create millions of cubic feet of waste in landfills.
Add to that the fact that convenience store restrooms are typically heavy traffic areas and people use, on average, 2.5 sheets of paper towels every time they dry their hands. As a result, trash receptacles can easily become overflowing with wet, germ-carrying paper towels, increasing maintenance requirements that compound the impact on the environment. The constant need to keep these restrooms tidy and sanitary not only adds to maintenance costs, it also requires the use of more cleaning chemicals which require energy to produce and can have a negative impact on environmental sustainability when used.
Replacing paper towels with hand dryers may at first appear to be simply trading off one set of carbon emissions for another. But this is not the case. Over its lifetime, one hand dryer will produce three tons less CO2 than the production of the paper towels it replaces.
Today’s high-speed hand dryers can dry hands in as little as 10 to 12 seconds and use 88 percent less energy than traditional hand dryers. Many models provide on-off heating controls and three-speed motor controls so that the energy efficiency of the unit can be optimized even further if a convenience store wishes to do so.
Moreover, making the decision to switch to high-speed hand dryers serves as a great example of how store owners can make a positive choice for the environment and save money doing so. At a paper towel cost of at least 2 cents per sheet a store can be paying as much as 5 cents per customer to dry their hands. Then, of course, there is the shelf space required to stock the paper towel supply coupled with the time it takes employees to restock the dispensers and clean up and dispose of the clutter paper towels leave behind, incurring additional cost when it comes to keeping that part of a store in shape. For these reasons, studies have shown automatic hand dryers can save businesses up to 99 percent in operation costs as compared to paper towels.
Switching from paper towels to hand dryers is a wise and sustainable choice for convenience stores of all sizes. It is a decision that not only is good for the environment, but also good for a store’s bottom line through reduced operating costs and an improved customer experience among those visiting the store’s restroom.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of Convenience & Carwash Canada.