Toilet paper is here to stay at Langara College

Alternatives like bidets are not coming anytime soon

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By Tom Eley

Although students at Langara say campus washrooms are often littered with toilet paper, school washrooms are unlikely to dispense with paper products anytime soon.

Collin Mills, an instructor in the department of geography and geology, was part of a project with student researchers tackling public washroom issues in Vancouver. According to his project, toilet paper remains a complicated issue when it comes to sustainability.

“It is pretty hard to get rid of toilet paper. Someone once said that the paperless office is about as likely as the paperless bathroom,” Mills said. “Which means not very likely at all.”

Campus washrooms often messy

Students who spoke to the Voice said they frequently find urine-stained seats and toilet paper over the floors in campus washrooms. Many blamed their fellow students for the mess.

“They are not picking up the paper and putting it in the garbage,” said Harshpreet Kaur, a second-year science student.

Kaur said the toilets can be clean at the start of the day, but as the day goes on, they can become dirty.

“When it is like this, I don’t feel like using it and just go home,” said Kaur.

Kevin Wang, a third-year biology student, said students are causing the issues.
“People never flush the toilet. It is gross,” Wang said.

There might be alternative solutions

Mills’s students looked at what people in other parts of the world use in washrooms and found that water often replaces toilet paper for bathroom hygiene.

“North Americans really haven’t wrapped their heads around that,” said Mills.

“In Thailand … the publicly accessible washrooms have what they call the ‘bum gun,’” said Mills.

The “bum-gun” is a spray used to wash and clean up after going to the bathroom.

Installing bidets in Langara’s washrooms was one of the suggestions outlined in a report by Langara’s Sustainability Club. According to the report, the average person consumes 384 trees of bathroom paper and spends about $8,400 on toilet paper in a lifetime. Installing a bidet could help reduce costs.

But toilet paper isn’t going anywhere.

“A commercial bidet can be expensive, and that, too, for every toilet seat on campus,” said Ishan Malhotra, a member of the Sustainability Club.

Facilities department is on the move

Langara’s facilities department said they face no new challenges in keeping washrooms clean since the campus reopened after the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an email sent to the Voice from the department, the college has six janitorial staff working during the day, and up to 30 working at night.
The facilities department is looking at switching out the old soap dispensers and upgrading and repairing the paper towel dispensers.

The facilities department said if students have complaints about  campus washrooms, they can submit a request form to the department.

Langara instructor Colin Mills said campus washrooms are not ready to go paperless.

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