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China Is Using Technology to Thwart Toilet Paper Thieves

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Tourism officials in Beijing face an unusual privy predicament: As The New York Times reports, thieves are swiping sheets of toilet paper from tourist site bathrooms, forcing administrators to install toilet paper dispensers with facial recognition software.

Due to a boom in domestic travel, the AP reports that tourism authorities have launched a $3.6 billion campaign to overhaul the capital city’s public toilets—particularly the infamously crude tourist bathrooms at popular attractions. Around 34,000 new public bathrooms are slated for construction; many of them will be built in the Western-style sit-down design, instead of the ubiquitous squat design. In addition, around 23,000 bathrooms will undergo renovations.

Some facilities are also equipped with the technologically advanced toilet paper dispensers, which cost around $720 each. When visitors enter these bathrooms, they are required to stare at a wall-mounted computer for three seconds. A machine provides them with a single, two-foot sheet of paper; after that, the visitor must wait nearly 10 minutes for a second one.

Toilet paper is a rarity in China, where most public restrooms either don’t have paper, or provide visitors with a single roll to share among themselves. However, it’s a required amenity for tourist sites if they are to receive top ratings from the country’s National Tourism Authority. Unfortunately, it can also make them a magnet for thieves.

For the past decade, Beijing’s popular Temple of Heaven Park has stocked its bathrooms with toilet paper, and locals wanting to replenish their own personal supply often stole it. Now, the park is testing out the face-recognizing toilet paper dispensers. Administrators say they will install the special dispensers in all of the park’s public bathrooms if the machines do, indeed, put an end to their toilet troubles.

[h/t The New York Times]

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In-Flight Bidets Could Be the Next Big Thing in Plane Design
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There are plenty of things to hate about flying, but having to repeatedly use a public (and very tiny) bathroom over the course of several hours is up there. That could change in the near future, though. Travel + Leisure reports that Zodiac Aerospace, a manufacturer of plane cabin interiors, is working on a fancy plane toilet like no other—outside of private jets, that is. Yes, it's a toilet with a built-in bidet.

Zodiac debuted its new design at the recent Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany. The company's latest and greatest toilet, which you can operate from a remote control that would be installed on a wall of the bathroom, features an adjustable water spout that retracts and can provide a nice spray for both the front part of your undercarriage and your back end. For those who understandably worry about germs on their airplane toilets, it comes with a special UV light to disinfect the loo.

According to Travel + Leisure, Zodiac's bidet-equipped toilets will most likely appear first on airlines based in places like Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, where bidets are more commonplace. The design might not be so appealing to airlines in the U.S., which is strangely averse to two-in-one toilet/butt-washing technology.

It's rare to see a plane upgrade that's actually good news for travelers. While there is the occasional proposal that might make economy travel more comfortable—like a design that would make middle seats wider and more accessible, or a seat that could alert the crew if you're having a panic attack mid-air—most new proposals would make flying even more of a nightmare than it already is, like a seat Airbus proposed in 2014 that would put passengers essentially in rows of bicycle seats for their entire flights.

Zodiac hasn't announced whether a specific plane or airline already plans to put this upgraded toilet into use, so it could be a while before you get to use it for yourself. Sorry, butts.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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Bathroom Hand Dryers Might Be Blasting Us With Poo Particles
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Using a public restroom can be a stressful experience. People inevitably shake the flimsy stall doors to check for occupancy. Soap can be missing and gastrointestinal noises can be heard. Now, a new study has found that the perils of public voiding may not end at the sink. The wall-mounted hand dryers—often believed to be a sanitary solution—could be blasting fecal bacteria right back on your hands.

Published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, the report looked at 36 bathrooms at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Samples of bacterial colonies were taken on plates. A typical bathroom air sample averaged less than one colony, while plates positioned underneath a hand dryer for 30 seconds averaged 18 to 60 colonies per plate.

Researchers aren't yet sure whether the dryers are actually harboring bacteria or simply sucking it up and then blowing a concentrated amount back out: Swabs of dryer nozzles had only minimal bacteria levels. Researchers found that installing a HEPA filter in the dryers dramatically reduced their bacterial load.

Bacteria in a public bathroom are likely coming from nearby toilets, which don't have lids and can release fecal particles when flushed. So what do you do if you don't want weaponized poo on your freshly washed hands? Avoid the dryer and stick with paper towels. But for relatively healthy people who aren't immunocompromised, a few blasts of contaminated air probably won't harm you.

[h/t CBS Pittsburgh]

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