Saving Soaps, Saving Lives: Repurposing Hotel Soaps for Hygiene

The global hygiene crisis continues to affect billions, with the World Health Organisation reporting that over 1.5 billion people lack basic sanitation services. Each year, inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene lead to 1.4 million deaths. UNICEF highlighted in 2020 that only three out of five people globally have access to basic handwashing facilities, and 40% of the world’s population don't have access to water and soap at home. The UN Development Programme noted that poor hand hygiene results in nearly 300,000 deaths annually, even before the COVID-19 pandemic worsened these issues. With such pressing needs in mind, several organisations have undertaken the task of recycling used hotel soaps to improve sanitation and save lives. Below, we list a few organisations making significant impacts on present-day hygiene and sanitation challenges by repurposing hotel soaps.


Donated 3 Million Soap Bars

In Australia, Soap Aid, a nonprofit organisation, is promoting hygiene in communities with urgent needs by repurposing used hotel soaps. Through a dedicated recycling program, used soaps that would otherwise end up in landfills are collected and sent to the Soap Aid facility. There, only the pristine or unwrapped soaps are selected for processing. These are then subjected to a multi-phase process that involves removing the outer layers to produce clean, reusable soaps. These upcycled soaps are then donated to individuals in need. Based in Melbourne, Soap Aid has made a substantial impact, diverting over 290 tonnes of soap from landfills and distributing more than 3 million upcycled soap bars globally. This initiative supports sustainability and also addresses the important hygiene needs worldwide.

(Image credit: Australia Soap Aid Facility)


Distributed 82 Million Soap Bars

Based in Florida, Clean the World is an organisation dedicated to recycling hotel soaps and amenities to address global sanitation needs. The organisation collects discarded soaps from the hotel industry, which are then cleaned and sanitized in their warehouses. Through these efforts, Clean the World has collected more than 18 million pounds of soap and has distributed over 82 million bars of recycled soap to those in need around the world. They collaborate with foundations and global NGOs to distribute new soap bars to women, children, and communities in need. With nearly 8,000 global hospitality partners, Clean the World diverts waste from landfills, including discarded soaps, shampoos, and body wash. However, their impact extends beyond recycling; the organisation is committed to saving resources and promoting sustainable health practices through educational hygiene programs and events. These initiatives are designed to raise awareness about basic hygiene needs and support the sustainable health of the planet, involving a large network of volunteers and healthy partnerships.

(Image credit: Clean The World Soap Recycling Initiative)


Diverted 2,950 Tonnes of Soap Waste

Diversey, an American company specialising in cleaning and hygiene products, runs the global initiative "Soap for Hope." Launched in 2013, this program is committed to assisting at-risk communities by repurposing discarded soaps from hotels into new, usable soap bars. Aimed at eliminating waste and improving hygiene, Soap for Hope has established partnerships with over 800 hotels across 50 countries. Since its inception, the initiative has successfully diverted more than 2,950 tonnes of solid soap waste from landfills. It has produced over 24.5 million bars of recycled soap, distributing them every year to more than a million people. This initiative addresses critical hygiene needs and reduces environmental impact by repurposing hotel soap waste, making a contribution to sustainability and public health.

(Image credit: Soap For Hope Program by Diversey)


Recycled 55 Million Soap Bars

Samir Lakhani is a social entrepreneur who has made significant contributions to community health in developing countries through his noble initiative, Eco-Soap Bank, founded in 2014. Recognised as a finalist for the Unilever Young Entrepreneur Awards, Lakhani’s organisation focuses on recycling discarded soap bars from hotels into new, affordable Eco-Soaps. They advocate for good hygiene practices and provide employment opportunities for women across Africa and Asia. Eco-Soap Bank has been instrumental in supplying to millions of people with soap and essential hygiene education. The initiative has recycled more than 9 million pounds of soap and produced over 55 million soap bars. Importantly, they employ over 175 women from disadvantaged backgrounds, offering them work and educational opportunities that enhance their skills and economic independence. Their products can be customised by NGOs upon order, further extending the reach and impact of this transformative program.

(Image credit: The Eco-Soap Bank by Samir Lakhani)


Collected 5000 Kgs of Hotel Soaps

The Zero Waste Soap program, initiated by the R.O.L.E Foundation, aims to improve waste management systems in Bali, Indonesia, by focusing on upcycling used soaps from local hotels. This program nurtures environmental sustainability and provides crucial employment opportunities for women from local villages. These women are trained and employed to repurpose the collected soap, which is then distributed to those in need. To date, the initiative has successfully collected more than 5,000 kilograms of hotel soaps and distributed over 60,000 upcycled soap bars. The Zero Waste Soap program contributes to making the planet greener and reducing landfill waste, by providing a means for these women to earn a salary through the recycling of used soaps. Moreover, it addresses hygiene needs for people in need, showcasing a powerful example of how sustainability efforts can directly improve community health and livelihoods.

(Image credit: Zero Waste Soap by R.O.L.E Foundation)

Millions of tonnes of soap are discarded by hotels globally each year, contributing to an incredible amount of waste. By recycling these soaps, vital organisations, redirect useful materials from landfills and also help provide essential hygiene products to those in extreme need. These initiatives offer employment opportunities, enabling people to engage in meaningful work that supports both environmental sustainability and community health. These sustainable efforts present a powerful approach to tackling global hygiene challenges and economic opportunities.

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