The difference in sustainability between cotton and paper

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Hidden Fields
30 March 2022 Hygiene

Drying hands with cotton: 48% less energy consumption

After visiting the toilet, we all wash and dry our hands. There are of course several ways to do this. The hands can be dried with a blower, with paper towels and with a cotton towel roll. Research shows that a cotton towel roll is the most sustainable way to dry your hands.

In fact, when looking at the entire life cycle when drying hands with cotton, there is 48% less energy consumption compared to drying hands with paper. This was confirmed in a scientific study commissioned by the Textile Service Trade Association (WIRTEX) and the European Textile Service Association (ETSA). The energy-intensive production process of paper is an important contributing factor.

Statistik des Energieverbrauchs - Baumwollhandtuch vs. Papierhandtuch

Difference between cotton and paper waste

Handen drogen statistiek, katoen en papier afval vergelijking

Cotton towel rolls create up to 95% less waste than paper towels. But what difference can hand drying really make in terms of sustainability? Looking only at the Netherlands, 17 million people already wash their hands several times a day at work, in restaurants and in public restrooms. All in all, this creates a lot of waste.  

A cotton towel roll is a 100% natural product and therefore 100% biodegradable. As many as 11,000 people can dry their hands with just 1 cotton towel roll. This is possible because per towel roll 110 times the hands can be dried. Furthermore, a towel roll can be washed 100 times while maintaining quality. After each wash, the rolls can be used again and again. With a life span of approximately 100 washes, a 35 - 40 meter cotton roll is comparable to ± 22,000 paper towels. That is easily over 20 kg of paper waste. In comparison, a cotton roll results in less than 2 kg of waste and is 100% reused. 

Second life for cotton

Rolls that are partially rejected (wear spots and holes) and do not pass the quality control are professionally repaired by the adjustment department. The usable parts of a rejected roll are assembled into a new towel roll. Part of the towel roll is dyed blue and used within the industry (metal and automotive). A sophisticated washing process, careful transport, an eye for storage at the customer and a repair department driven by passion are the basis for extending the life of the roll.

As mentioned, there is virtually no waste with cotton towel rolls. The towel rolls that no longer meet the quality requirements are in fact stored centrally as a raw material for the production of (cleanable) mops and cleaning cloths. Because of this second life, all cotton fibers are completely exploited. The cotton that remains at the end of the cycle is returned to nature or serves as fuel (energy) for production. In this way, maximum consideration is given to the environment.

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