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Zero-Waste Paper Towels Help Maintain Edge over Hand Dryers

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A new YouTube video by AsapSCIENCE answers a question many of us have wondered—is it more hygienic to use paper towels or a hand dryer after washing your hands in a public restroom? The answer, paper towels, may come as a surprise to some.

The narrator explains that residual moisture on our hands is what allows bacteria to grow and spread. On average, a paper towel only requires 10 seconds to remove moisture, while a classic hand dryer will require 45 seconds. And most people who use hand dryers do not spend much more than 20 seconds drying their hands, leading to potential contamination of themselves and areas such as door handles nearby. Also, the friction of using paper towels helps remove bacteria after washing while the air blast from a common dryer can actually deposit extra bacteria from the environment.

Later in the video, sustainability issues are listed as a "pitfall" of using paper towels. And according to pro-dryer sites, hand dryers are now being made to consume much less electrical energy, dry in less time, and use cleaner air. But away-from-home hygiene products such as paper towels should continue to gain in environmental popularity as more information is being made available to the public about new recyclability, renewable sourcing, and carbon neutral technologies that are being used in today’s industry. 

According to the University of Florida’s campus sustainability website, for example, all paper towels being used are now made from recycled paper and they expect to move toward composting them as part of the University’s goal of being "zero-waste" by 2015.


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