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Go green – skip the paper towels altogether

Recycled paper towels may not have much over 'virgin' paper towels, new American research says.

MIT researchers found the environmental impact of recycled towels equals that of virgin paper towels in a number of environmental measures, including CO2 emissions and water consumption. 

Dyson  – which manufactures air hand dryers among other items– commissioned the research, which has been independently reviewed by industry figures including Carnegie Mellon professor H. Scott Matthews and is being submitted to academic journals.

In releasing the findings, Brett Avery of Dyson New Zealand said that if every New Zealander visited the bathroom once a day for a year and used two paper towels each time, there would be enough paper waste to cover Eden Park’s number one field eight times over.

The study used a scientific method known as life cycle assessment (LCA) to measure the overall environmental impact of seven hand drying systems including cotton towels, virgin and recycled paper towels and hand dryers .

Researchers considered all stages from manufacturing to end of life and calculated findings based on the system’s impact on CO2 emissions, ecosystem quality, land and water use, human health and resource intensity.