A recent poll ranked Johannesburg and Cairo as the two tourist cities with the poorest washroom access. Tork manufacturer Essity looks at the importance of public washrooms and considers how to make them cheaper to run and more pleasant to use.

Africa’s tourist hotspots appear to be sadly lacking in public toilets. This was the conclusion reached in a recent poll of 69 tourist destinations around the world. Johannesburg came out second worst in the survey with only 0.01 public toilets per square kilometre. And bottom of the list in 69th place was Cairo, which offered a mere 0.002 toilets per sq.km.

Carried out by UK-based washroom supply company QS Supplies, the survey revealed that other African destinations fared little better with Cape Town ranking 44th on the list and Marrakech 48th.

So why is toilet provision so badly lacking in Africa?

True, public washrooms can be expensive to run as well as being time-consuming to maintain and hard to monitor. Essential supplies of soap and paper tend to run out quickly in public facilities. And washrooms are frequently the targets of vandals and are often used for shady activities such as drug-taking. Therefore, they are commonly perceived as being unpleasant, down-at-heel facilities and this tends to deter people from visiting those few washrooms that remain available.

But public toilets are a necessary part of daily life as well as being crucial for tourism. Visitors might be forced to curb their stay in a city where the toilet provision is either poor or nonexistent, for example. And this will have a negative impact on that destination’s food and retail profits.

Municipalities need to come up with ways of making public toilets easier to maintain, harder to vandalise and cheaper and easier to run. All dispensing systems should be purpose-designed to reduce the need for frequent maintenance checks while also helping to prevent abuse. They must have a high capacity while also being robust and lockable, and they should help to curb over-consumption to bring down costs.

For example, the Tork SmartOne© toilet roll dispenser reduces consumption by up to 40 percent[1] compared with jumbo roll dispensers since the system delivers one sheet of paper at a time. The SmartCore© core removal system enables fast and easy refilling by the cleaner, which eases the maintenance burden. Plus, the sturdy dispenser has no openings or crevices that might be used for storing drug paraphernalia.

Public washrooms also need to offer a long-lasting supply of soap to facilitate good hand hygiene. But bar soaps will quickly become cracked and dirty, while bulk fill soaps need to be manually refilled – a task that can be both messy and time-consuming. Soap should therefore be supplied in cartridges that can be snapped quickly into place.
Tork Foam Soaps are supplied in sealed cartridges that cater for up to 1,650 visitors, helping to reduce consumption by up to 50 percent compared with a liquid refill of the same size. This helps to prevent runouts, while the fact that the sealed cartridge can be replaced in seconds speeds up the task of refilling for the cleaner.

A high-capacity hand towel dispenser is a good solution in a public toilet because it helps to keep the number of refill checks to a minimum. The Tork PeakServe® ContinuousTM Hand Towel Dispenser caters for over 1,000 washroom visitors between refills – 600 more than most dispensers. The towels are divided into bundles and a new bundle may be inserted into the unit at any time. The dispenser has been designed to dispense sheets of paper singly to avoid excess use and keep down costs.

There are other measures that authorities can adopt to improve efficiency and reduce bills in the public washroom. For example, automatic lights and taps that ‘sense’ when people need to use them can help to lower electricity and water bills.

Continuous flooring and wall coverings will be easier to keep clean than tiles with grout lines. Sensor-operated taps will require less cleaning than manual versions because they attract fewer fingerprints.

Public washrooms might be considered something of a luxury on a continent where many communities have no toilets at all. Statistics show that 75 percent of people living in rural areas of Burkina Faso and 96 percent in Eritrea have no toilet access, while more than 70 percent of those living in urban settings in Nigeria have no flushing toilet at home and no access to a shared facility. But public toilets have an important role to play for anyone visiting a park, town centre or other amenity. So municipalities need to design, equip and maintain these facilities intelligently to make them cost-efficient to run, quick to maintain and pleasant to use.

[1] Statistics from internal research on 7,729 users in Europe. Traditional maxi jumbo dispenser vs. Tork SmartOne® Twin Mini dispenser. Reduction accounted in square metre used per visit. The Tork brand offers professional hygiene products and services to customers ranging from restaurants and healthcare facilities to offices, schools and industry. Products include dispensers, paper towels, toilet tissue, soap, napkins, and industrial and kitchen wipers.

For more information visit: www.tork.co.za