How One Organization Is Saving Lives With Your Used Hotel Soap

Apr 8, 2017

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Hoarding a handful of tiny shampoo bottles to bring home with you is part of the hotel routine for many travelers (a 2016 Expedia survey even confirmed that 24 percent of us do it). But hotel soap? That’s a different story — unless there’s a fresh, unopened bar left over, that’s going to stay right in the soap dish, which used to mean it would go directly into the trash. But thanks to Clean the World, an Orlando-based nonprofit organization, your leftover soap could be helping to save the world.

Founded in 2009, the idea for Clean the World originated from a place of curiosity. Shawn Seipler, a sales and marketing executive for an e-commerce technology company, spent much of his week traveling for work and living out of hotel rooms. As he finished up yet another business trip, he noticed a bar of once-used soap in his hotel bathroom and wondered what would become of it. After calling down to the front desk to find out it would simply be thrown away, he knew there had to be a better way.

Old soap becomes new soap — like magic! Image courtesy of Clean the World.
Old soap becomes new soap — like magic!

He soon found out about rebatching, a process for recycling soap, whereby old bars are melted, reformed and — voila — turned into fresh bars of soap. And while it would have been easy enough for Seipler to use this knowledge to turn a profit, he decided to make a difference instead.

According to Clean the World’s website, diarrheal diseases cause approximately 1.8 million deaths per year around the world, with many of those cases occurring in impoverished countries. Yet the World Health Organization points to hand-washing with soap as one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to avoid these afflictions. For Seipler, the answer was simple: he was going to walk away from the corporate world and dedicate his life and time to turning would-be trash into a potentially life-saving product.

Collect, rebatch, redistribute and repeat. Image courtesy of Clean the World.
Collect, rebatch, redistribute and repeat.

With an estimated five million bars of soap being thrown out every day at hotels around the world, Seipler is not in short supply of product. With the help of approximately 20,000 volunteers, he’s managing to eliminate waste and help individuals in need.

To become a part of the Clean the World endeavor, Seipler told Thrillist hotel partners pay the organization 50 cents per room per month to have their leftover soaps collected, rebatched and redistributed. The non-profit also provides bins and offers training to housekeeping staff at participating hotels.

At the moment, approximately 5,000 hotels across the country are Clean the World partners, including all of Disney’s properties and several major hotels in Las Vegas. Dozens of others in New York, Chicago, London, Hong Kong and Macau have also caught on to the Clean the World way and are doing their part to assist Seipler in his efforts.

In 2016, Clean the World distributed 400,000 hygiene kits and produced more than seven millions bars of soap. Image courtesy of Clean the World.
In 2016, Clean the World distributed 400,000 hygiene kits and produced more than seven millions bars of soap.

When he’s not soliciting new partners, Seipler and his dedicated crew of volunteers spend their time assembling “hygiene kits” to be sent to homeless shelters, deprived areas around the world and nonprofit organizations like the Red Cross and The Salvation Army; in addition to soap, the kits usually include toothbrushes, toothpaste and hand sanitizer. According to Thrillist, the organization distributed 400,000 hygiene kits in 2016 and produced more than seven millions bars of soap.

While anyone on the outside looking in can see the positive impact that Seipler has already made on the world, he’s not even close to being done yet. Pointing to a statistic that says approximately 16,000 children under the age of five are dying every day from easy-to-treat ailments including pneumonia and diarrhea, Seipler says, “That’s still about one every 15 seconds. So we still have a lot of work to do.” And he’s right. But that’s a pretty darn good start — and something to think about the next time you ponder whether or not to pack away that lightly used bar of designer soap.

H/T: Thrillist

All images courtesy of Clean the World.

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