Beijing public bathrooms equipped with face scanners in a bid to save toilet paper

A granny is having her face scanned by a ficial scanning machine to get the toilet paper in one of the public bathrooms of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing on March 20. Photo: Chunmei/

A world renowned tourist site in Beijing has recently equipped its public restrooms with face  scanners which can help to allocate a “reasonable” amount of toilet paper to each visitor.
Six such machines were installed in three bathrooms of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing last week, which is aimed at encouraging visitors to stop over-using the free toilet paper and raising public awareness about saving public resources, an officer at the complex told on Monday.
In order to get toilet paper, visitors must remove their glasses and hat, stand in a designated area and have their faces scanned by a camera in front of them. Afterward, they will be issued a 60-cm long piece of toilet paper by the machine fixed on the wall. While, theoretically, the whole process takes just three seconds, it may take longer as a user has to match his or her face to the right place required by the machine before the paper is released.
However, not all visitors were enthused by the machine. A Chinese granny aged over 70 said that it is a waste of money to use such an advanced technology just in order to get people to stop wasting toilet paper.
“The problem is how to improve people’s quality, and it should be solved through education and improved by public opinion,” she said. “It probably costs more to install such a machine than the excessive use of the toilet paper.”
As one of the thousands of Beijing elders who visit the park almost every morning, she thinks it’s embarrassing to set such a machine in the park which also attracts lots of foreign visitors.
The face scanner has also captured the attention of China’s Internet users.
“It’s just so ironic. The public toilet paper was meant to serve the public, but now it has to be supervised by technology,” a user said on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging platform in China.
“It is hard to believe that the face scanning technology has already been used in toilet before it is used in the payment area”, another said.

One of the facial scanning machines in a public bathroom of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing Photo: Chunmei/

It is reported that the Temple of Heaven launched a service to provide free toilet paper for the visitors since 2007 ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. However, while the park aims to provide better public service, there are visitors taking the free toilet paper for granted and using them excessively, the officer said. Some even take the toilet paper back to their home, he said.
According to a report by the Beijing Evening News earlier this month, some visitors even make multiple trips to the park’s toilets just to stash the paper in bags they bring along.
While the idea to apply the face scanning technology to the toilet paper allocation just came out recently, the system is only a part of their efforts to raise public awareness about conserving toilet paper.
Besides the new face scanners, the park has also been using broadcasting and slogans to guide the elder visitors.
“Technology is only one of the ways that we use to guide the visitors, and we will not regard technology as the most important measure to handle issues like this,” he said.
He also emphasized that the system is on a ten-day trial, and the visitors’ feedback and the cost of the machines will be taken into consideration when the park makes the final decision on whether to promote the system as a long-term program.
 “If the visitors can use the free toilet paper properly, we don’t need such machines. After all, we also don’t want to have such machines (in the public toilet),” he said.


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