One of the biggest problems in modern society is wastefulness. In many parts of the world, food, water, and even electricity are frequently—and carelessly—wasted.
It’s such a problem that we don’t even realize the extent of what we’re doing. Hotel soap, for example, often gets thrown out whether it’s used or not, despite the fact that countless people around the planet are dying because they don’t have access to such hygienic necessities.
One forward-thinking man realized that this was an issue, and decided that it was up to him to do something about it. What he did next made him a hero!
Many bars of the soap left for hotel patrons end up in the trash. In fact, replacing the soap each day—even when it hasn’t been used at all—is a requirement in order for a hotel to receive a top rating of five diamonds.
Roughly one million bars of soap are thrown out in the United States each day, and it’s estimated that about five million bars are thrown out on a daily basis worldwide.
Thankfully, some hotels have decided to put an end to such waste, turning what would-be trash into something positive. In fact, they’re saving lives! Thanks to Clean the World, a company based in Orlando, Florida, used hotel soap is collected, melted, and turned into new soap to give to countries in need.
The idea came from Clean the World founder and CEO Shawn Seipler. He used to travel almost five months out of the year when he worked for a tech company, and became curious one night when looking at a bar of soap. He asked the front desk what happened with the unused soap, and learned that it gets thrown out.
Shawn researched the issue further, and learned that it was a nationwide problem. He was horrified by the wastefulness. “That,” said Shawn in an interview, “is when I learned about rebatching.” That’s the name given to the process by which old soap is melted down and reformed into fresh new bars.
Shawn decided that he could put rebatching to good use after learning the extent to which hygiene is a problem in impoverished nations. Thousands of children die from preventable ailments, such as diarrhea and pneumonia, each day. This could be avoided if they had access to hygienic products like soap.
“Then it was just a matter of figuring out how to get the soap to recycle, and getting into their hands,” said Shawn. “It was an aha moment, and I realized this was my calling. I called my Puerto Rican relatives and they said ‘let’s do it.’ Pretty soon we were sitting in my garage on pickle buckets with vegetable peelers, cooking soap.”
Now, the hotels that partner with Clean the World pay them 50 cents per room per month for their soap to be recycled. CTW provides everything the hotel staff needs, including bins, training, and delivery. The staff puts the unused soap in the bins, and a CTW truck takes it to one of their processing plants.
Clean the World has many plants around the world, including Hong Kong, Las Vegas, and Orlando, the latter of which houses their first and largest location. After the soap is rebatched, it’s sent in boxes to non-governmental organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.
Top hotels also help CTW recycle body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. One of 20,000 worldwide volunteers then check to make sure that these bottles are at least three quarters full; empty ones are thrown out.
Since it was established in 2009, Clean the World is credited with helping to decrease the number of deaths in children under the age of five who die each day around the world. In 2016 alone, it made 7 million bars of soap and dispatched 400,000 hygiene kits.
Despite CTW’s hard work, a quarter of the 16,000 deaths of children under the age of five each year are attributed to diarrhea and pneumonia. “That’s still about one every 15 seconds,” said Shawn. “So we still have a lot of work to do.”
Luckily, CTW isn’t alone: 5,000 hotels partner with it in the United States alone, and other companies have pitched in, too. United Airlines, for instance, donates unused items from its first aid kits, as well as sleep masks and ear plugs to send to people in noisy, bright shelters.
The work is far from finished, though. “There’s a whole world of hotels out there we can get to start donating,” said Shawn. “Right now we’ve got 20% of all hotels in the U.S. That’s a lot of room to grow, and a lot of soap to make.”
Watch this fascinating video to learn more about Clean the World, its mission, and why this company’s work is so important. It’s difficult not to get emotional after you hear Shawn tell his story in his own words…