The most recent figures show that paper towel manufacturers lost more than $ 800 million in revenue between 2012 and 2020 due to competition from electric hand dryers. Since the introduction of electric jet hand dryers, the paper industry has conducted several studies to show that jet hand dryers can be less hygienic than paper towels.
The European Tissue Symposium (ETS) is a Brussels organization that represents the interests of the paper towels sector, in particular Kimberly-Clark and SCA. Their job is to mitigate income loss by attacking jet dryers and disseminating misleading information. For example, the ETS has been funding and publishing research since 2008 with the aim of making suspicious jet systems for the general public.
A detailed plan was published on the ETS website in 2017, showing how an advertising campaign would attack electric hand dryers. However, this campaign was based on misleading scientific research. The study of the spread of antibiotic resistant microbes was commissioned by the University of Leeds in the toilets of three hospitals in France, Italy and the United Kingdom. The results of this study show that no clear conclusion can be drawn about the difference in hygiene between the use of paper towels and jet hand dryers. However, the media spread the message that paper is more hygienic and misleading information is being distributed about the hygiene of hand dryers.
Earlier, in 2015, the ETS funded a researcher from the University of Westminster. During his experiment, the researcher artificially contaminated gloves with an abnormal number of microbes, about 100,000 times more than normal. The hands were then placed - without washing - in the dryer to let the viruses fly. Based on this unreasonable experience, the researcher concluded that paper towels are more hygienic. Subsequently, the ETS paid more than € 100,000 to the Brussels PR service Duo Media to disseminate these misleading conclusions without mentioning the (unrealistic) method used.
All this follows a previous survey on the paper industry in 2013 by SCA Hygiene Products (Tork's parent company) and Campden BRI. This study concluded that using a jet hand dryer under normal conditions does not significantly affect the amount of bacteria in the toilet air compared to paper towels.
A detailed analysis of these three studies of the paper industry is available here: