Imagine you walk into a hotel room that has just been vacated. You find a bed that’s unmade and sheets that are rumpled. Perhaps a light has been left on. But by the sink and shower is something that’s barely been used. It’s a bar of soap and a small bottle of shampoo provided for the guest. Perhaps they’ve used it for a night or a couple of nights, but now it’s left behind.
It seems rather pointless to throw it away, but what else can really be done with it?
Well, a little company that could, called Clean World, has been saving millions of bars of soap, and through this, they’ve been saving millions of lives in the process.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) 12 tháng 5, 2017
Shawn Seipler was a Florida-based employee of a successful tech company who regularly traveled for his job. Seiper was away on business and staying in a hotel when he took a moment to think about the soap in his bathroom. “I called the front desk of the hotel and asked them what happened to the soap when I was done with it,” Seiper told The Daily Telegraph.
When he found out that they were simply throwing it away, his mind naturally went to all the hotels he had stayed at over his career and all those bars of soap in the trash.
In a world where 1.8 billion people lack access to basic sanitation according to the World Health Organization (WHO), this soap could be so helpful. In a world where diarrhea and other diseases caused by poor hygiene are among the biggest killers, especially for young children, Seipler knew there had to be a better way. “I had a eureka moment.”
Thus began his new life as a social entrepreneur and founder of the non-profit company Clean the World. The company has launched the first-ever hospitality-recycling-focused project. As they note on their website, hotels are crucial places to start because “more than 2 million bars of partially used hotel soap are thrown away every day in the United States.”
Meanwhile, the WHO has stated that access to soap and hygiene education could mean the difference between life and death for children. But how would the soap get from American hotels to poor children in developing countries especially when some of the bars of soap have already been used, even if just a bit?
At first, Seipler’s technique was certainly DIY, as he told the Telegraph. In a family member’s garage, Seiper says he and his volunteers “would sit around on upside down pickle buckets with potato peelers and scrape the outside of bars of soap to surface clean them.”
After they had got down to clean unused layers, “we had meat grinders to grind down the soap, cookers to cook it into a paste and soap moulds, which we poured the paste into.”
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From the early days in 2009, the company has grown and grown as more and more hotels around the world have become partners in the fight to provide basic sanitation for the world’s poorest.
Starting in Florida was a big asset, since Seipler was able to get the massive hospitality companies in the area, including Disney, to donate their used soap. Now, the company also has processing centers in other big cities that see heavy hospitality traffic, such as Hong Kong, Montreal, Las Vegas, and Amsterdam.
While some hotels have started to do more, such as in-house recycling or refilling containers from bulk supplies, Seipler still recommends that guests concerned about waste stay active. “Take [soap and shampoo] home with you,” he advised travelers in the Telegraph. “Use them at home or donate them to a homeless shelter.”
Nowadays, Clean the World uses advanced automated processes to recycle and repackage donated soap and hygiene products to create hygiene kits that they distribute all over the world to needy children and families.
As their website notes, the company “has distributed more than 50 million bars of soap to over 127 countries.” But they’re not leaving it at that. The company makes sure to do workshops with local organizations to teach people about the importance of hygiene and how to get the most use out of the donated kits.
They have also branched out into helping people in the developing world get better access to clean water, whose absence is a major source of sickness along with lack of sanitation products.
“We’re not done yet.” From its humble beginnings in a hotel bathroom to a company working with the biggest names in the hotel industry, Clean the World has a vision: “we are leading a global hygiene revolution.”
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