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Hand Dryers

14 November 2011

Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have completed what is believed to be the first major study to assess the greenest way of drying your hands.

The research paper compared the most common drying methods in public toilets and concludes that paper towels and warm air hand dryers have the highest environmental toll – generating 70% more carbon emissions than the newest technology on the market, the cold air-driven Air blade hand dryer like the Mach2 from Fast Hand Dryers.

MIT's new research looked at the entire life cycle of various competing products from cradle to grave – materials, manufacturer, use and end of life - including use of transport, dispenser, waste bins and bin liners.

Previous scientific studies into hand drying have tended to focus on the spread (and usually increase) of bacteria, amid growing concern about infection control and the impact of superbugs on public health.

Consumers typically perceive recycled paper towels to be better for the environment. But the report's researchers found that the environmental impact of recycled towels equals that of virgin paper towels in a number of environmental measures, including CO2 emissions and water consumption. In the US, 2% of total landfill consists of paper towels.

Recycled and virgin towels were both found to generate over three times more carbon emissions than the Jet hand dryers, creating waste, consuming more energy and also using more water.

By contrast, the environmental impact of warm air hand dryers occurs during use. Energy-heating elements and inefficient motors tip the sustainability scales, making warm air dryers up to 80% less energy-efficient than an Air blade hand dryer.

MIT's paper has been peer reviewed and the work will soon be submitted for publication in a leading academic journal.

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