Pilot to go Paper Towel-less in Restrooms

At Valencia College, we use over 14.8 million paper towels annually, equal to 65,673 pounds or approximately the weight of five African Elephants, the largest living land animals.

Landfills account for the third largest source of methane emissions (according to the EPA), and as Valencia works to reduce its carbon footprint, the Office of Sustainability, along with Facilities, is exploring the option of going paper towel-less in restrooms.

As part of this initiative, we are conducting a pilot at our East Campus to switch out restroom paper towels with hand dryers.  The installation will occur over the summer, in order to minimize class disruptions.  Below are some frequently asked questions about this project.  If you have a question that is not addressed below, please email cblack32@valenciacollege.edu.

Frequently Asked Questions and Topics

Program Overview

Where are we going paper towel-less?

This initiative is being piloted at the East Campus. The East Campus has about 33% of its sinks associated with hand dryers prior to this initiative. This campus was selected because it already has some hand dryers and the restrooms could benefit from addressing the relic paper towel dispensers still hanging on the walls.


Why is this being done?

As Valencia works to reduce its carbon footprint, the Office of Sustainability examined the various areas of our operations for different ways to reduce our emissions, including short-, medium-, and long-term projects. As we continue to address our largest source of emissions from student and employee commuting, a long-term project, we also identified our high consumption of paper towels in restrooms as a shorter-term project.


Do we have hand dryers currently?

Hand dryers are already in use at our East, Osceola and West Campuses. The proportion of sinks with hand dryers at each campus is below:

  • East: 33%
  • Osceola: 45%
  • West: 46%


Will all paper towels be removed?

No. This initiative only focuses on restrooms. It will not affect labs, food prep areas or break rooms. Also, paper towels will remain in ADA accessible stalls with sinks.


What research and collaboration led to the decision to pilot hand dryers?

The Sustainability Office:

  • Researched the quietest hand dryers available on the market;
  • Received demos to field test the sound levels in our restrooms and hallways;
  • Presented the idea at Sustainability Forums with students, faculty and staff;
  • Held a Faculty Petting Zoo for the top three hand dryer options to receive votes and feedback;
  • Presented the project to the Operations Leadership Team and received approval to proceed;
  • Presented the project to Faculty Council; and
  • Presented the project to East Campus administration and faculty representative and received approval to proceed.


What type of hand dryers will be used?

Excel Dryer Xlerator Hand Dryer, Model: XL


How long will the pilot last?

The installation component of the pilot at the East Campus will take place over the summer in order to minimize class disruption. We will seek feedback into the beginning of the fall semester when students and faculty have returned from summer break.


How can I provide feedback about the pilot?

Once the hand dryers are installed and individuals have had a chance to use them, a survey will be sent to a representative sampling of the East Campus community to gather feedback on this project.

If you work on the East Campus and if you have questions or comments, or feedback once the hand dryers are installed, please email cblack32@valenciacollege.edu.


How will you decide if the pilot is a success?

In partnership with East Campus stakeholders and the Operations Leadership Team, we will review the feedback from the survey and from East Campus stakeholders to determine whether the pilot has been a success.


General Questions

What are the sound levels associated with hand dryers?

One of the leading considerations from the outset has been the sound level of the hand dryers. We researched the quietest models on the market and requested demos to test them ourselves in our facilities. The hand dryer model selected includes a sound dampening nozzle. The hand dryer operates around 74 decibels. For comparison, normal conversation ranges from 60-70 decibels.

Pro-Tip: When drying your hands, hold them at an angle and lower in the air stream to further reduce the noise level.


How does hand dryer hygiene compare to paper towel hygiene?

After reviewing the research on the hygiene of hand dryers compared to paper towels, we found the below studies:

  • Gustafson, Daniel R., et al. "Effects of 4 Hand-Drying Methods for Removing Bacteria From Washed Hands: A Randomized Trial." Mayo Clinic Proceedings, vol. 75, no. 7, 2000, pp. 705–708., doi:10.1016/s0025-6196(11)64617-x.

    After comparing four methods for drying hands, including paper towels, hand dryers, cloth towels and spontaneous room air evaporation, they found "no statistically significant differences in the efficiency of [the] 4 different hand-drying methods from removing bacteria from washed hands."

  • Huang, Cunrui, et al. "The Hygienic Efficacy of Different Hand-Drying Methods: A Review of the Evidence." Mayo Clinic Proceedings, vol. 87, no. 8, 2012, pp. 791–798., doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2012.02.019.

    The authors did a scientific literature review of the studies done comparing hand dryers and paper towels and their drying and hygienic effectiveness. The authors found conflicting results among the studies on efficacy of these two methods. As a result, they stated that, "paper towels should be recommended in locations where hygiene is paramount, such as hospitals and clinics."

As a result, at Valencia, we are only looking to introduce hand dryers in restrooms. Paper towels will remain in labs and food preparation areas.


What if I just need a paper towel?

For emergencies, paper towels will be available in the ADA accessible stalls with sinks.


What if we have a spill in a classroom?

Paper towels will be available in the ADA accessible stalls with sinks. They will also be available in labs.


What if the restroom needs attention?

A sign with a phone number to call if the restroom needs attention, for any reason, will be placed in each restroom.


What if I need to blow my nose?

Those allergies and colds definitely take a toll on our noses as well. We have found that when we don’t have a tissue, toilet paper in the restrooms is much softer than paper towels.


Are there alternatives?

Paper towels can’t be recycled due to the potential bio-hazards associated with them after use, in addition to their already lower quality fiber. We lack the capacity on our campuses for composting the high volume we consume, and there is not a commercial composting facility in our area. As a result, the only option for paper towel disposal is the landfill.