We are often asked if hand dryers are more environmentally beneficial than hand towels. And the answer is - yes - ...it depends. What are the specifications of the hand dryer? How many paper towels does the average hand washer use? If they use any at all? How many times do they restart the hand dryer?
For a clear explanation of a life cycle analysis (LCA) on this topic - based on Australian conditions, read this article.
We're not always comparing apples with apples, which further complicates LCA. There are yet more considerations if you take into account where the hand dryer was manufactured, how old it is, what the paper towels are made from and the list goes on.
And lets not get into talking about using washable towels because I can already hear you saying....."but what about all that electricity, water and detergent for washing? And who is going to do it? And is it hygenic?
So what can we draw from this? Unless you commission it specifically for your product or service compared with another, LCA is a guide, not a guarantee. This might be considered another good reason to opt first to avoid consumption of a product altogether - like letting your hands air dry. Unless it is snowing outside, which it rarely is in our lucky country.