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As a facility manager, you do your best to advance both hygiene and sustainability to support the well-being of the building occupants and the environment. Due to heightened awareness about hygiene in the current pandemic, this could be truer now than ever before.

While proper handwashing has been front and center during these times, proper hand drying has not – even though improper hand drying can undo the many benefits of handwashing. Bacteria are more likely to be transmitted from wet skin than dry skin, making proper hand drying a critical component of the hand-hygiene process.

When it comes to hand drying, options run the gamut, from cloth towels to paper towels; from jet dryers to warm air dryers; from shaking your hands in the air to wiping them on your pants. Drying hands with paper or cloth towels is the most hygienic as the friction of drying removes even more germs. Now that we have established the most hygienic way to dry your hands is with paper towels, what is the most sustainable?

Most commercial paper towels – both white and brown – are made with high levels of post-consumer recycled content. These products are made following responsible forestry practices and other global social responsiblity concerns have been addressed as well. Certifications from Green Seal and EcoLogo help to further validate the amount of recycled fiber content and a minimal environmental impact during processing.

Recycled white paper towels are generally made from high-quality office paper waste that is in increasingly short supply. As the value for these materials increases, the amount ending up in landfills is declining. But recycled brown towels are made with high levels of mixed paper waste, including magazines, cereal boes, junk mail and paperboard packaging. At this time, a lot of mixed paper ends up in landfills. However, thanks to new technology, an increasing number of paper manufacturers can use the fiber from mixed paper waste to make brown paper towels.

Fortunately, you do not need to sacrifice quality for sustainability. The fiber recovery process has undergone significant advancements in recent years, which means many brown paper towels perform equally to white in terms of softness and absorbency. There are hand-drying products available that ease the pressure of simultaneously supporting hygiene and sustainability.

Credit: Cleaning & Maintenance Management Magazine