Toilet paper toll: How Beijing is aiming to reduce paper wastage

Posted March 20, 2017

A Beijing park has introduced facial recognition for toilet tissue dispensers in one of the city's busiest public toilets in a bid to wipe out the scourge of toilet roll thieves.

Machines at the Temple of Heaven park scan visitors' faces before dispensing a fixed length strip of paper.

The feed you get is 60 cm, which seems reasonable, but it sounds like those wanting more within a short amount of time will have to resort to Minority Report-style tactics to bypass the system.

"If we encounter guests who have diarrhoea or any other situation in which they urgently require toilet paper, then our staff on the ground will directly provide the toilet paper", a park spokesman told Beijing Wanbao.

The machines are installed in three public toilets so far.

The manager of the Temple of Heaven Park told the People's Daily that the paper has been overused mainly by residents who live around the neighbourhood instead of tourists; some people intentionally take paper here because it is free of charge.

Earlier this month, Chinese media reported that visitors to the Temple of Heaven park's toilets were taking excessive amounts of toilet paper, some of whom were seen stuffing their bags.

This is how it works: Each person stands in a designated area, where the machines scan his or her face.

Six machines have been installed in the toilets to stop tourists from taking paper to use at home.

According to the Beijing Evening News, each washroom averages four rolls of toilet paper, compared to 20 rolls before.

It has put up posters as well as broadcast messages on its public announcement system exhorting visitors to use less paper.

An employee stood on hand ready to explain and guide visitors with the use of the machines, which were installed in various toilets at the popular tourist attraction on Saturday (March 18).

But the dispensers may now have become an attraction in their own right. But a few said the public shouldn't get too wound up over the issue.

So why all the fuss over toilet paper?