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.
Temple of Heaven Park installed six of the machines for a two-week trial run. They are placed at average heights for both men and women, after a scan that’s supposed to last around 3 seconds, a 60-70cm strip is dispensed. No more paper is given to the same person for 9 minutes.
Despite teething problems in which the scan took several minutes leading to confusion and toilet congestion, the park told Beijing Wanbao that the daily amount of toilet paper used in its toilets has gone down by 20%.
This saving has meant that toilet-goers now enjoy a luxurious upgrade from one to two ply tissue.
Some have raised concerns about privacy…they don’t want their visit to the public toilet to leave a paper trail. “I thought the toilet was the last place I had a right to privacy, but they are watching me in there too,” wrote one user on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.
Others were concerned about the practicality of the measures in situations where users need larger amounts of paper or are experiencing a time-sensitive lavatory visit but a spokesman for the park put those fears to rest by reportedly explaining:“If we encounter guests who have diarrhea or any other situation in which they urgently require toilet paper, then our staff on the ground will directly provide the toilet paper.”
The park has been aware of the problem since it first started offering complementary paper back in 2007. Despite attempts to raise awareness through poster campaigns and public announcements promoting efficient and responsible loo-roll-use, the public (and allegedly the elderly in particular) continued to stuff their bags with it.
Some locals believe that this type of behavior points towards society itself going down the toilet. One local told reporters: “This is so ironic, the paper in public toilets is meant to serve all in society, now we have to use technology to regulate it,” another added, “several low-class people have forced the rest of society to undertake a high-cost operation”.
It seems that the dispensers have become an attraction in their own right as one cleaner revealed to the BBC: “In the past there were a lot of cases of people taking toilet paper, with these new machines a lot of people have come by to take a look.”