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Hand dryers may not be best solution for campus washrooms

Paper towel is a viable means of drying hands that has been abandoned in our modern world. Algonquin’s Ottawa campus is rather equipped with air dryers, which leaves students with wet hands.

“Half the time [the] hand dryers don’t even work,” said Andrea Darlene, a hairstyling program student.

“I even avoid using them,” said mobile application design and development program student, Emmanuel Omonzane. “They’re outdated and don’t really do anything. Most of them don’t work.”

“The hand dryers don’t really do much,” said Angele Prevost, travel tourism program student.

The comments were made by students who have pinpointed washroom deficiencies throughout the Ottawa campus. And Todd Schonewille, director of physical resources agrees an argument can be made for paper towels.

“When you’re blowing your hands, you’re actually blowing contagions into the air,” he said in an interview with the Times.

The hand dryers in most of Algonquin’s older bathrooms are heat dryers, meaning that they use hot air and evaporation to dry hands. Students are opting to skip drying their hands because they do not have the patience.

Distrust in hand dryers is a concern for Todd Schonewille.

The solution is to return to an era before air dryers: paper.

“Obviously, that would have a large environmental impact because of the waste you’re generating, so we would need to find that balance,” said Schonewille. “There is the potential to standardize paper towels and implement a paper towel recycle program, those are some of the things we’re thinking about.”

Research supports Schonewille’s position on paper towels. A study by Westminster University in London, England concluded that paper towel produces the lowest spread of germs from hands into a surrounding environment. And an air dryer spreads over 100 per cent more bacteria than paper towel.

The new water fountains and bottle-filling stations were the result of the Students’ Association advocating on behalf of student interest. Schonewille suggests similar action could be taken if the hand dryers grow to be an issue of the same caliber as the old water fountains.

“We always have it in our plans to renew buildings over time in some shape or form,” Schonewille said.

“For instance, if the SA made it number one priority for hand dryers, we really listen to the SA and most certainly would make that a project for us, hypothetically speaking,” said Schonewille. “Every identified need has to be looked at in context of everything else on our big list. We are always managing those priorities every year. With feedback from students and staff, we decide what the priorities are based on the funding that is available to us.”

Shonewille said it will be challenging to make a change, but the department of physical resources has a standard to maintain in terms of both function and cleanliness, he assured. “There is room in the master plan for the campus to allow for unanticipated academic needs.”


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