Before FDA White Oak’s Green Team intervention, GSA had a campus-wide policy at FDA’s White Oak campus in Silver Spring, Maryland in which GSA sub-contractors were required to instruct custodial staff servicing the White Oak campus restrooms to remove and place in the trash half rolls of toilet paper and replace with full rolls. Once this practice was identified by a White Oak Green Team member, other Green Team members also reported that between 2-5 half (sometimes more than half) rolls were thrown out per restroom at least once a day in most buildings on campus.
The FDA White Oak Green Team took action by approaching those responsible for supervising the custodial contractors. By presenting an environmental argument, supported by statistics demonstrating the wastefulness of the practice, the policy of discarding half rolls of toilet paper was abandoned and custodial staff are now instructed to leave half rolls in the restrooms instead of trashing them.
The following calculations put this waste, generated by the FDA White Oak campus, into perspective. The calculations are based on the premise, backed up with empirical evidence, that half rolls were trashed with each morning cleaning of the each restroom. In fact, there were reports that this practice also occurred at afternoon cleanings but in an effort to develop a conservative estimate, those numbers were not included in the calculations.
FDA White Oak Campus-wide: roughly 193 restrooms (may not include all buildings on campus)
• 193 restrooms x equivalent of 2 full rolls trashed = 386 wasted rolls per day
• In one year, 100,360 rolls are discarded which would cover 2970 miles. This would cover the driving distance from the White House to the San Francisco with about 150 miles left over.
• The weight of these 100,360 rolls per year would be 40,771 lbs, which is about the weight of 2 full size school buses!
• The area of these 100,360 rolls per year equal 5,747,108 sq. feet, which is enough toilet paper to cover 99.25 football fields.
• The cost of these 100,360 rolls per year would be $60,216. Putting that into perspective, the National Median household income in the United States is $44,389 / year. $60,216 is more money than the annual income of 61.5% of American Households!
The cost mentioned above only includes the value of the discarded used rolls, and does not include the additional cost for removing this waste from campus or the “environmental” costs.
The White Oak Green Team will be keeping an eye on this situation, to ensure that the new policy is implemented on campus. Considering that this was a policy defended by GSA at FDA, we suggest that a government-wide review for a similar wasteful and environmentally unfriendly toilet paper practice be conducted. Please do your part, have your local practices reviewed.