Hand sensors roll out free toilet paper in some public restrooms

Yang Jingyu
A new hand sensing device will be trailed at some toilets in Shanghai in another attempt to reduce wastage of toilet paper, officials said yesterday.
Yang Jingyu

A new hand sensing device will be trailed at some toilets in Shanghai in another attempt to reduce wastage of toilet paper, officials said yesterday.

The machines will roll out free toilet paper when users place their hand under the dispenser, the Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau said.

“We want to use technology to prevent misuse and provide better use of public resources,” said Chen Yijun, deputy director of the sanitation department of the bureau.

Shanghai has around 2,600 public toilets. The public toilets in nine districts provide free toilet paper, but only some toilets in the other seven districts offer free loo roll.

The city has also previously experimented with face-scanning devices that dispense toilet paper. 

Several years ago, public toilets in Hongkou and Jing’an districts started offering free toilet paper. 

Initially, free toilet rolls were placed inside the cubicles, but there were complaints about overuse. There have been reports of people walking away with entire rolls of toilet paper and even using them for drying their hands and cleaning their shoes.

“We hope people can treasure public resources,” said Chen, adding, “we believe the situation will improve gradually.”

Chen said the city was also campaigning about “civilized behavior for use of public toilets.”

An earlier study of a public toilet on Yan’an Road M. showed that, on average, each person roughly used 1.6m of toilet paper per visit.

The bureau said five of the 64 planned new public toilets are ready for use already. Renovation work on 13 of the 253 existing toilets have also been completed.

Six unisex have been built and another 100 such toilets will be built by the end of this year. The unisex toilets will have spaces for people who need help like people accompanying children and seniors or disabled people.

About 550 public toilets are open 24 hours. A total of 205 public toilets will provide hot water in winter.

Authorities are also adjusting the ratio of cubicles based on the real situation to cut waiting time, improve baby chair, washing basin and barrier-free facilities for the disabled at public toilets. Soap and hand sanitizer are also provided at some toilets.

A new round of toilet renovation at Metro stations has started, officials said. Measures include adding cubicles at toilets with busy traffic and high frequency of use at stations, improving ventilation, monitoring ammonia concentration and cleaning sewage pipes.

China launched a “toilet revolution” across the country in 2015 with an eye on developing domestic tourism and improving people’s life quality.

Authorities have also developed a public toilet app and a cloud platform which allows people to locate the nearest public toilets in Shanghai and report problems on broken facilities to authorities. They are also working on standards on the cleaning service and facilities of toilets at hospitals. 



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