Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Reducing restroom waste – via prevention

September 19, 2010
Paper product manufacturers have upgraded paper offerings and dispenser lines due to customer demand.

However, it is now the responsibility of the cleaning staff to maintain and keep these products available and user-friendly.

With the many options out there today, end users need a solid knowledge of each to match their particular facility’s needs.

Over the years, many CM/Cleaning and Maintenance Management readers have expressed concerns about the challenges of restroom care.

Ridding facilities of cross-contamination and waste are at the top of our readers’ restroom priority lists.

We recently spoke with several paper product manufacturers for troubleshooting advice and market knowledge.

Background on touchless systems
Automatic flush valves and faucets were among the first touch-free technologies introduced in restrooms.

Shortly thereafter, touch-free towel dispensers were developed and the “s” door entry became very popular.

The “s” door entry, commonly found in airports, eliminated the need for patrons to touch doors and/or knobs, which further reduces the potential contact with bacteria.

Such designs and products are popular because touching untreated restroom fixtures is the primary way illnesses are passed from person to person.

Compared to the rest of a typical facility, the bacteria and viruses found in restrooms are the most virulent and pathogenic; every time a toilet is flushed, up to 10,000 bacteria and viruses are made airborne and 1,000 bacteria on a sink handle can rapidly become 16,000 in only 60 minutes.

However, it is financially impossible to have a member of a company’s maintenance crew clean the bathroom to completely eliminate this threat.

Yet, on the other hand, it can cost a company nearly $400 for the absence of one employee.

Concern 1: Contamination
In recent years, touchless dispensing systems have progressively become more popular due to highly publicized concerns about illness and food contamination.

A more health-conscious public has become increasingly aware that hand-washing is the first line of defense against illness, especially during cold and flu season.

According to the National Center for Infectious Disease, “The most important thing that anyone can do to keep from getting sick is to wash (their) hands often. Washing hands not only helps to prevent the spread of infectious illnesses, it is the best way to stop the spread of illnesses caused by E-coli and other pathogens often encountered in food preparation.”

In addition, when hands are not thoroughly dried an environment is created that allows the growth of bacteria and other pathogens.

Touchless systems prevent the start of cross-contamination by allowing users to avoid the need to touch anything within the restroom and facility that may contain harmful bacteria (or other contaminants).

“A study of 305 Detroit school children found that youngsters who washed their hands four times a day had 24 percent fewer sick days due to respiratory illness, and 51 percent fewer days lost because of an upset stomach,” according to Reuters News Media.

Concern 2: Waste
Several product upgrades on the market today offer cost savings for in-house cleaners and building service contractors (BSCs).

Many manufacturers agree that roll towel dispensers with portion controlled usage are the best solution to reduce waste and cost per use.

“Most end buyers will compare costs on a case-to-case basis, rather than on a cost-per-use basis. To understand the value of a roll towel system, the comparison must be presented on a cost-per-use basis,” says Isabelle Faivre from Cascades Tissue Group. “When buyers see a comparison based on cost-per-use, they can make an informed decision about which product offers greater value.”

Touchless systems also provide solutions for such problems as the “stub roll.”

Debbie Ponath from San Jamar explains that the “automatic load” has been set up so that the cleaning staff can let one roll run out completely because there is another roll ready to be used.

The system will automatically switch over on its own.

Touchless systems not only solve old-age problems, such as stub roll, but allow the cleaning staff to be within the restroom less often than usual.

The current green movement, which is prevalent in JanSan industry, is also affecting how end users select products.

Through our research, we have noticed that more end users are shopping for 100 percent recycled paper products, as long as performance isn’t sacrificed.

“Our company contributes to a greener environment by using recycled fiber in its process, much less water than the industry average and a chlorine-free bleaching process,” says Faivre.

Good, better, best
Today, facility managers have more choices when considering the purchase of paper products for restrooms.
Facility managers and BSCs should closely evaluate the facility’s trends, traffic patterns, and use, before selecting the best paper options to fit their particular needs.

For example, office buildings tend to choose products with features that incorporate embroidery for exceptional brightness and absorbency, according to Ponath.

And, the reason for this is that office buildings, and other similar facilities, need to show a professional upscale look to appeal to clients.

On the other hand, a facility such as a school may not need to appeal so much to their students.

Although these facilities may have every intention of keeping the students and other occupants safe and welcome, these areas tend to purchase a lower-end touchless system.

Another unique product developed specifically for the higher-end segment is the oversized folded towel.

However, this choice does lead to more wasted product due to the fact that the product is simply “there for the grabbing,” and some do tend to overuse.

Shannon White from Wausau Paper has noticed a changing purchasing trend in Class A office buildings.

“These facilities are interested in premium, higher-end products, but are also interested in 100 percent recycled products that have a premium appearance and performance,” says White.

No matter which way you look at it, touchless systems have helped keep every individual clean and healthy.

And, manufacturers all agree that their systems are going to continue to advance as technology becomes available.

When it comes to restroom care, end users should be mindful of occupants’ habits and implement waste prevention techniques.