When I transferred to USD last year, one of the first things I noticed was the complete absence of paper towels in the restrooms. Instead, USD has hand dryers installed in every restroom. Should the school bring paper towels as an option to dry your hands? In order to answer that question, we need to look at the associated costs and benefits to each, and how much value is placed in each cost.
We first need to look at sanitariness. There’s much discussion about the effectiveness of paper towels compared to hand dryers. Even scientists can’t universally agree about which is more effective at reducing germs.
Some studies suggest hand dryers with hot air increase bacterial growth, while others suggest bacterial growth only occurs if you rub your hands together while drying them.
Another aspect is the cost: Hand dryers have a larger upfront cost, but use fairly little electricity. Paper towels have a consistent substantial cost.
The University of Florida uses 500,000 pounds of paper towels annually. We can extrapolate based on population and estimate that USD would use around 80,000 pounds of paper towels per year.
Perhaps the largest cost would be paying individuals to restock the paper towel machines and to clean up the inevitable mess of paper towels. Even with all of these factors, we still fail to take into consideration what the people want.
I would vote for paper towels since they are better at actually drying my hands than our lukewarm hand dryers. Do you think the school should bring back paper towels?