National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Paper Towel Waste

I discovered some statistics about my government center that were intriguing. We have 900 paper towel dispensers across our center with a population of 74% engineers. We purchase about 15,000 rolls each year costing the government easily over $100,000 per year.


The Dyson Airblade claims to be the fastest hand dryer that is hygienic, with a sticker price of $1,119 for each system. I propose that if the government replaced paper towel dispensers with jet towel hand dryers it would save millions of dollars in the long-run. It’s a simple replacement that requires some up-front investment but will save the government money in the future and the trees will thank you too!


Analysis: Assuming that only non-engineering employees have their bathrooms updated, 234 paper towel dispensers would be replaced with Dyson Airblades. Based on numbers posted on the company’s webpage, it would cost $1,708 a year in operating costs, with an up-front expenditure of $280,566. We would save $29,250 by alleviating the need for paper towels. Without doing a discounted cash flow analysis, this center alone would start saving money in the 12th year after the transition.


My center represents 0.17% of the civil servant population. By simple extrapolation, there are over 530,000 paper towel dispensers being used across the government. Some ‘back of the napkin math’ suggests if 2% of all paper towel dispensers across the government were changed, over a million dollars in one year could be saved by not purchasing paper towels. (Note: I, of course, am not a representative of Dyson. I’ve also noticed that Mitsubishi and Spacelink Corporation both offer similar designs via the GSA website.)


Twelve years could seem like a discouraging time frame, but the story could be more attractive if there is a bulk discount provided by Dyson. Also, if every center were to replace its paper towel dispensers with this more advanced, efficient technology, the savings could easily reach millions of dollars!



Idea No. 16410