New Hand Dryers Will Blow You Away


Tye Wallis and Nadja Ueckert-LaPlante, Journalism

There is an ongoing debate regarding the most effective way to dry our hands: paper towels or hand dryers? You can ask people which method they prefer to use to dry their hands, and some people will give you an answer based on their preference; others will consider the effect of each method on the environment.

At Ipswich High School, the student restrooms are equipped with out of date hand dryers. The hand dryers blow lukewarm air at a slow speed, leaving students’ hands damp and attractive to germs. Additionally, students are spending too much time attempting to dry their hands with the hand dryers. Time spent under the hand dryers is taking away vital time that students should be in class. Students have come up with an alternative to the low-power hand dryers: toilet paper. This begs the question, “Is it time to update the hand dryers in the bathrooms or install paper towels?” When asked if students would prefer to use paper towels or hand dryers to dry their hands, ten out of the ten students asked said they would prefer hand dryers because using paper towels kills trees.

While both hand dryers and paper towels negatively impact the environment and are costly updates for the school, the negative characteristics of paper towel usage seem to outweigh the effects of hand dryers on the environment.  Paper towels are made from trees, and the process of converting trees to paper towels releases harmful pollutants into the atmosphere, as well as water sources. Extensive production of paper towels can also lead to deforestation because there is such a high demand for trees to continuously produce paper towels. While a roll of paper towels is used up at least once a week in school, hand dryers only need to be replaced every ten years. Furthermore, after paper towels are used, the soiled paper towels have to be stored in the trash can where bacteria can grow and spread rapidly. In addition to the fossil fuels emitted when paper towels are made, when paper towels are disposed of, the remains are typically sent to a landfill where methane, a greenhouse gas, is produced during the break down of the paper towels.

Hand dryers also release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and use a significant amount of electricity. However, Mrs. LaFrance pointed out that, “Our electricity at school comes mainly from the wind turbine, so for us, I think hand dryers are the better option.” Additionally, out of date hand dryers are impacting the health of students at school because they take too long to dry hands. Hannah Scruton said she doesn’t wait for her hands to dry completely under the hand dryers because it takes too long. Instead, Hannah and many other students leave the restroom with warm, damp hands. If these students’ hands were not washed thoroughly, some bacteria will remain on their hands and multiply. Overall, both hand dryers and paper towels generate 70% more carbon emissions than newer technologies, in addition to the energy, water, and waste consumed and created. The good news is, there are new and more efficient hand dryers.

New models of hand dryers are more effective at drying hands than other hand dryers because of the high-powered air, which allows for shorter drying time. The new versions of hand dryers are using cool air at a high speed, which as a result, uses less energy and produces less carbon dioxide. The overall cost of new hand dryers is approximately $400-$500 per unit. In the long run, however, the cost of restocking paper towels in the restrooms would cost more than updating the hand dryers. After talking to Mr. C., he agrees that the low-power hand dryers are ineffective, saying, “The goal for the future is to install at least one high-power hand dryer into each of the student restrooms.” The benefits of using high-power hand dryers could drastically impact students’ health and time spent in the bathroom drying their hands, as well as the environment.