USF should stop using paper towels

In this time of economic uncertainty, students need to hold the University to the same standards that they hold their national government.

When the constant debate over the national budget and wasteful attitudes dominate every major news source, students should not overlook the gross overspending and wastefulness that occurs at their school.

On average, it costs $124,000 annually to stock campus restrooms, according to USF Physical Plant.

Cooper Hall custodian John Lewis said that on any given weekday each paper towel holder is refilled an average of four to five times. In the building alone, there are around 14 restrooms, most having two paper towel holders. That amounts to between 112 and 140 rolls of paper towels replaced per week.

Lewis said the product used in Cooper Hall is general roll and multi-fold paper towels purchased from Sysco Corporation.

Paper towels – which are made by processing raw wood into pulp and bleaching and forming it into absorbent rolls – are an exceptional waste on the ecological level, with Americans using 3,000 tons of paper towels each day, according to environmental activist Jennifer Kaplan’s Web site.

According to Sanitary Maintenance, a magazine for sanitation professionals, a single chemical treatment to clean the pulp in a paper mill can pollute about 20,000 gallons of water.

To eliminate paper-towel waste both financially and ecologically, the University should consider installing several hot air dryers into each restroom on campus.

Complaints about traditional hand dryers include slow dry time, high initial costs, loud noise and cross-bacterial contamination.

But high-speed hand dryers have eliminated most of those complaints. The dryers have hotter air, better circuitry and better filters. Only one complaint remains: high initial costs.

According to an article in Sanitary Maintenance, the high initial costs are small compared to the savings that will add up over time.

Estimates show that after an initial investment of about $300 per dryer, the long-term cost of electric hand dryers is about $1.34 per 1,000 uses compared to about $22.70 per 1,000 paper towel uses.

Lance LaFave, vice president and co-owner of Newton Distributing Co., Inc., said to Sanitary Maintenance that not only will installing dryers eliminate the need to purchase paper each month, but the cost to maintain paper towel holders will be eliminated.

Other universities like California State University, Northridge (CSUN), in Southern California have already switched to automated hand dryers.

Assistant Director of Facilities and Maintenance Gary Homesley said CSUN spent $21,000 annually on paper towels, installation labor and trash hauling fees, but it reduced this cost significantly by installing automated hand dryers, according to Excel Dryer’s Web site.

The hand dryers and new urinals in the Student Union saved more than $30,000 a year.

Students need to petition USF to cut down on overspending and wasteful practices to help reduce rising college costs and amounts of waste entering U.S. landfills.

Nick Johnston is a junior majoring in creative writing.