The debate around paper towels vs hand dryers, and which is the greener way to dry your hands, is an ongoing one for businesses, environmentalists and everyday consumers. Paper towels are undeniably handy for drying hands quickly and mopping up all manner of spillages, but have you ever stopped to consider their impact on the environment?

We’ve compiled some paper towel vs hand dryer eco-facts on environmental impact and eco-savings below that you might just find surprising.

A single paper towel dispenser sends 160kg of waste to landfill every year

There is a widespread assumption that because paper towels don’t use any electricity and can be made from recycled materials, they must be the greener option, however this isn’t necessarily the case.

Paper towels are generally made from chemically treated virgin wood pulp, recycled materials or a combination of both, and their production plays a significant part in deforestation as well as consuming high levels of water. Every stage in the life cycle of a paper towel, from manufacturing to transportation, packaging, storage and disposal, produces significant levels of CO2, which has a hugely detrimental impact on the environment.

Paper towels are designed as a single use product and it doesn’t take long for even a small business to generate a vast amount of waste, with just one dispenser producing 160kg of rubbish each year. Categorised as contaminated waste, paper towels are more often than not unrecyclable and consequently end up in landfill, usually in plastic bags. The decay of paper products in landfill produces methane gas, which has a global warming potential of 28 times that of carbon dioxide.

Hand dryers can reduce a building’s CO2 emission by nearly 70%

On the other side of the debate, hand dryers use only a short burst of energy, don’t need to be constantly refilled and leave no waste products. They beat paper towels on the environment front hands down, with electric hand dryers proven in some cases to reduce a building’s carbon footprint by 50% – 70% compared to using paper towels.

Studies have also shown that a hand dryer is nearly three times more eco-friendly, producing only a third of the CO2 that paper towels create. Modern dryers can also dry hands in as little as 12 seconds and use far less (around 88%) energy than their predecessors. This energy efficiency, in terms of CO2 emissions and impact on our environment, constitutes an actionable step closer for businesses striving to achieve net-zero ambitions.

Hand dryers can pay for themselves in as little as 18 months

It might sound surprising, but UK manufacturers sold paper towels worth approximately £496m in 2021, a huge amount of money for an item that is only used once before being thrown away.

Choosing an energy efficient, eco-friendly hand dryer instead of a paper towel dispenser could save you up to 97% annually, as well as reducing the maintenance costs associated with refilling and disposing of paper towels.

Paper towels can cost approximately two to three times more per month than warm air hand dryers and up to 20 times as much as a powerful cool jet air hand dryer, which for any business looking at cost saving measures is a no-brainer.

In fact, many hand dryer units can pay for themselves in under a year (based on usage of over 100 times a day when switching from paper towels). Without factoring in the cost of rubbish bags and maintenance, an average size company will spend around £2,000 a year to cover paper towels and their refilling and disposal. By comparison, the initial cost of an electric hand dryer and annual operating costs from £10 is a much smaller price to pay.

Our Quantum Eco Hand Dryer has a running cost of just £10 per year

Our Quantum eco hand dryer sets the bar for hand dryer efficiency with a 12 second drying time and an annual running cost of just £10.00, based on 200 uses per day, 365 days per year. The Quantum offers a 96% reduction in the annual outlay for electricity when compared to an older warm air dryer, making it the most energy efficient dryer on the market and has a 200-watt energy consumption level – the industry standard for a dryer to be considered ‘green’ is 1,000 watts.

Steve Whittall, Chief Operating Officer here at Airdri, has this to say:

“It takes very little energy to dry one pair of hands. However, in public buildings where washrooms are used on a daily basis for eight, twelve or more hours, these energy usages can mount up to a substantial expense. Therefore, exceptional energy efficiency is paramount to ensuring an ecologically friendly dryer. At Airdri, our bespoke motors help achieve best-in-class energy efficiency, requiring only 200 watts of power to operate.

“Breakdowns and faulty mechanisms are the last things you want to be dealing with when you’re investing in a hand dryer, therefore, in order to avoid unnecessary repairs and replacements, a long-life span is a top priority for an eco-friendly dryer. Our hand dryer range has a reputation for reliability, the Quantum in our Eco Range was tested to 10,000 hours.”

Visit our paper towel calculator to calculate the environmental impact of your business.

Leave a Reply