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Sustainability

Waterless Urinals: Not Just For The Environment

October 11, 2011
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Twenty years ago, building owners were predominantly concerned with maintaining a clean and orderly restroom; little or no thought was given to the environment.

On April 10, 1992, Jane Applegate wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times titled, "Clean Restrooms Can Help Firm Sparkle."

Jane stated, "Dealing with a dirty restroom may not be high on your priority list. But, when you deal with the public, cleanliness boosts your business success."

This has not changed in the last 20 years; a clean bathroom is still a priority for any facility.

According to a recent study conducted on behalf of Cintas Corporation, more than 75 percent of adults in the United States would avoid a restaurant, hotel or medical facility if they encountered a dirty restroom.

A clean and hygienic restroom is absolutely critical for any building, often serving as an ambassador and speaking volumes about the overall status of a building.

However, since Jane''s article in 1992, it has become increasingly clear that the global community must also strive for sustainability.

As such, businesses and building owners strive to incorporate products that are environmentally friendly.

Reduce Complaints And Environmental Impact

As one of the most visible areas of a building, the restroom is the source of more complaints than any other area of a facility.

Unfortunately, commercial restrooms are one of the most difficult areas in a facility to keep clean.

As Aaron Baunee noted, "Not only are restrooms literal toxic waste stations, but their high foot traffic puts an added burden on custodial professionals with increasingly robust workloads."

Certain product choices in the restroom can contribute to a cleaner, more hygienic experience and are also better for the environment.

Two specific products that immediately come to mind are touch-free hand dryers and waterless urinals.

Waterless urinals are often only mentioned in an environmental context, where both the immense water savings — 40,000 gallons or more per urinal, per year — and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction — up to 720 pounds of CO2 per urinal, per year — are cited.

There is a common misconception that waterless urinals are not as hygienic as their flush urinal counterparts.

However, waterless urinal systems actually reduce odors and contribute to a cleaner, more sanitary restroom.

A few facts demonstrate why:

  • Urine is essentially odorless. Urine odor primarily results from the reaction of urine with water and air. Without water, the bowl quickly dries between uses and produces no detectable odor.
  • Dr. Michael Hoffman, professor of environment science and dean of graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology, concluded in an independent study that, "The dual barrier system provided in waterless urinals are predicted to be 500 times more effective against the back migration of sewer gases as compared to conventional P-trap water barriers."
  • Bacteria and viruses thrive on moist surfaces, and the wet surface of a flush urinal is a breeding ground for their growth. Flushing doesn''t kill bacteria and viruses — worse, the flush creates a plume that spreads bacteria and viruses to every surface in the restroom. Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona explains, "Waterless urinals offer a major improvement in public sanitation. Flushing is eliminated, which greatly reduces the almost continuous production of microbial aerosols, and the surface and sides of urinals are drier, which reduces the survival of human disease-carrying microorganisms and prevents their growth."
According to the American Journal of Infection Control, bacteria, such as those that cause the influenza virus, can thrive and linger on surfaces for up to 72 hours.

As a result, mechanical flush urinals contain more bacteria and microorganisms than touchless urinals.

The touchless feature of waterless urinals can help reduce the risk of cross-contamination because users aren''t required to crank or pull a lever that may harbor more bacteria.

Similar to flush urinals, waterless urinals require minimum maintenance to ensure a clean, user-friendly experience.

Simply spray the urinal with a mild, manufacturer-approved cleaner and wipe clean as you would with a flush urinal.

Because there''s no water, there will be no lime scale or calcite buildup, which makes cleaning fast and easy.

With waterless urinals, building owners and facility managers can rest assured that their restroom will be cleaner and their patron''s experience will be both hands-free and hygienic.

Jane Applegate would approve; so does the environment.


Will Bennett is the vice president of corporate development for Falcon Waterfree Technologies LLC, the world''s leading and most widely installed brand of waterfree urinal. To learn more about Falcon Waterfree Urinals, visit www.FalconWaterfree.com or e-mail WBennett@FalconWaterfree.com.

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