Using technology, China ramps up its ‘toilet revolution’

In this photo taken onMarch 21, 2017, a man tries out a facial recognition toilet paper dispenser at a toilet in the Temple of Heaven park in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Updated 03 April 2017
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Using technology, China ramps up its ‘toilet revolution’

BEIJING: Fed up with the theft of toilet paper from public bathrooms, tourist authorities in China’s capital have begun using facial recognition technology to limit how much paper a person can take.
The unusual move — part of a “toilet revolution” — is another step in China’s vast upgrading of public facilities.
Bathrooms at tourist sites, notorious for their primitive conditions and nasty odors, are a special focus of the campaign, a response to a vast expansion in domestic travel and demands for better-quality facilities from a more affluent public.
“Today in China, people are highly enthusiastic about tourism, and we have entered a new era of public tourism,” said Zhan Dongmei, a researcher with the China Tourism Academy. “The expectation of the public for the toilet is becoming higher.”
At Beijing’s 600-year-old Temple of Heaven, administrators recognized the need to stock the public bathrooms with toilet paper, a requirement for obtaining a top rating from the National Tourism Authority. But they needed a means of preventing patrons from stripping them bare for personal use — hence the introduction of new technology that dispenses just one 60-centimeter (2-foot) section of paper every nine minutes following a face scan.
“People take away the paper mostly because they are worried they can’t find any when they want to use it the next time. But if we can provide it in every toilet, most people will not do it anymore,” Zhan said.
Launched two years ago, the revolution calls for at least 34,000 new public bathrooms to be constructed in Beijing and 23,000 renovated by the end of this year. Authorities are also encouraging the installation of Western-style sit-down commodes rather than the more common squat toilets. Around 25 billion yuan ($3.6 billion) has already been spent on the program, according to the National Tourism Administration.
The ultimate target, Zhan said, “is to have a sufficient amount of toilets which are clean and odorless and free to use.”
At Happy Valley, the largest amusement park in Beijing, around 4 million annual visitors rely on 18 bathrooms, each of which is assigned one or two cleaners who must make their rounds every 10 minutes on busy days.
“People come here to have fun, but if the toilets are disgusting, how can they have a good time here?” said Vice General Manager Li Xiangyang. “It is the least we should do to offer a clean and tidy environment for tourists to enjoy both the tour of the park and the experience of using our toilets.”
Going a step further, the financial hub of Shanghai even opened its first gender-neutral public toilet in November in order to boost convenience and efficiency.
“Women are stuck waiting in longer lines for stalls than men, and it is fair for men and women to wait in line together,” Shanghai resident Zhu Jingyi said after using the facility.
Zhan said the toilet revolution is about 90 percent complete, but warned that it has yet to be won.
“We can’t accept the situation that a lot of investments have been made to build toilets and they turn out to be unsanitary and poorly managed,” he said.


Antarctica is losing ice 6 times faster today than in 1980s

Updated 14 January 2019
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Antarctica is losing ice 6 times faster today than in 1980s

  • Study says Antarctica has lost almost 252 billion metric tons of ice per year since 2009
  • The recent melting rate is 15 percent higher than what a study found last year
WASHINGTON: Antarctica is melting more than six times faster than it did in the 1980s, a new study shows.
Scientists used aerial photographs, satellite measurements and computer models to track how fast the southern-most continent has been melting since 1979 in 176 individual basins. They found the ice loss to be accelerating dramatically — a key indicator of human-caused climate change.
Since 2009, Antarctica has lost almost 278 billion tons (252 billion metric tons) of ice per year, the new study found. In the 1980s, it was losing 40 billion metric tons a year.
The recent melting rate is 15 percent higher than what a study found last year.
Eric Rignot, a University of California, Irvine, ice scientist, was the lead author on the new study in Monday’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He said the big difference is that his satellite-based study found East Antarctica, which used to be considered stable, is losing 56 billion tons (51 billion metric tons) of ice a year. Last year’s study, which took several teams’ work into consideration, found little to no loss in East Antarctica recently and gains in the past.
Melting in West Antarctica and the Antarctica Peninsula account for about four-fifths of the ice loss. East Antarctica’s melting “increases the risk of multiple meter (more than 10 feet) sea level rise over the next century or so,” Rignot said.
Richard Alley, a Pennsylvania State University scientist not involved in Rignot’s study, called it “really good science.”