A machine on the wall requires people to scan their faces first before they can get free toilet paper in Tiantan Park, Beijing, March 19, 2017. Tiantan Park, home to the iconic Temple of Heaven, used the machine to prevent users from raiding the park's restrooms for toilet paper. The software will deny the same person toilet paper within nine minutes of their first scan. (Photo/CFP)
Overuse of toilet paper in public restrooms has forced the ancient Temple of Heaven to adopt new technology.
Facial recognition systems were installed in three of the site's toilets last weekend. Tourists will have their faces scanned before a piece of paper is dispensed, usually 60 to 70 centimeters long. If a person wants more toilet paper after the first piece, he or she will need to wait nine minutes.
"For emergencies, having loose bowels for instance, one could ask for toilet paper from managing staff," said Xing Qixin with the park's media office.
Pictures went viral online earlier this month showing some seniors tearing off lots of toilet paper and taking it away, renewing criticism of the behavior of Chinese tourists.
"Some media also suggested we tighten our management," Xing said.
He told Xinhua that a similar system has been used in other toilets in schools, hospitals and office buildings in Beijing.
"We will see the effect and tourists' response before deciding whether we should install such a system in other toilets at our park," he added.
There are 14 toilets at the Temple of Heaven, and the park started offering free toilet paper in 2007.
Overuse of toilet paper has always been a problem, but Xing noted that the situation is actually improving.
In 2015, the use of toilet paper fell 8 percent from 2014, while last year it dropped 14 percent.
Warning signs and public announcements are also used in the park to remind tourists not to waste.
"Technological measures are auxiliary and the most important thing is raising people's awareness," Xing said. "It is our hope that one day, we don't have to use the facial recognition system and everyone can behave themselves."