Have you ever wondered where hotel soap goes after you use it once? Most people would assume it gets tossed in the trash and never give it a second thought. Well, Shawn Seipler isn't most people. This very random question led him to become one of the biggest global hygiene entrepreneurs in the world.
I did some research and figured out that we are throwing away a million bars of soap every single day out of hotels across the U.S.
Seipler was a VP for a tech company back in 2009 and found himself on the road more days than not. It was during one of these hotel stays that he started pondering the afterlife of hotel soap. So the curious minded Seipler rang the front desk to find out. "They told me (the soap) was thrown away."
That meant that 350 million bars of once-used hotel soap were thrown away each year in the U.S. alone. Globally, it's over 700 million. He thought surely there was a company recycling these hotel products and was surprised to find out the niche hadn't yet been tapped into. How wasteful. More research lead him to other disturbing facts regarding soap and the lack of it.
In 2009 there were 9,000 children dying each day because of pneumonia and diarrheal disease. They were the #1 and #2 leading causes of death amongst children worldwide.
"All these studies showed us that if we just gave them soap and taught them how and when to wash their hands that we could cut those deaths in half," Seipler said .
Seipler decided to make a career change and founded a non-profit that he called Clean the World. "It was about collecting all the used soap - which was destined for landfill, recycling that soap and then getting into the hands of children and mothers around the world so we can save their lives."
He realized he found his calling - recycling soap.
He prefers to use the term "re-batching."
"When the used soap comes into the recycling center the first thing we do is grind it down into a powder. We add some sterilization solution to completely disinfect the bar. Then we re-manufacture it into a brand new 3 once bar of soap," Seipler explained.
Then the new bars are boxed up without individual plastic wrappers, so when they are distributed around the globe there's not additional environmental waste.
Clean the World(CTW) started recruiting hotels to join their movement. It was quite simple. The hotels pay the company 50 cents per room per month to have the soaps recycled.
CTW has lots of volunteers who show up at their processing plants to donate their time. They spend it sorting the gently used hotel products that are collected from participating hotels around the country.
The products have to be sorted because hotel soap isn't the only product collected. CTW also picks up lotions, shampoos, conditioners and body wash bottles. The bottles are cleaned and included in hygiene kits that the company supplies to homeless shelters, women's shelters and relief organizations.
The kits have toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizer and other helpful items in them.
Almost 5,000 hotels have joined the Clean the World movement in North America, Asia and Europe. That's almost 1 million hotel rooms. Seipler was proud to report that since starting up in 2009, CTW has distributed 400 million bars of soap to 118 impoverished countries. That's a lot of lives saved.
For more information on how to volunteer at one of of CTW processing plants or how to make a donation please visit www.cleantheworld.org.