Lonely Planet Writer

How leaving behind the soap in your hotel could help save lives

Are you the kind of person that stuffs every available hotel freebie into your suitcase before returning home? If so, you might want to step away from the hotel soap because one organisation is recycling them for a very good cause.

Your leftover hotel soaps and shampoos could have a huge impact. Image by Glowimages
Your leftover hotel soaps and shampoos could have a huge impact. Image by Glowimages

Clean the World has been working since 2009 to help recycle hotel soap bars and redistribute them to impoverished people all around the world in an effort to combat hygiene-related illnesses. The result is less toiletries ending up in a landfill and a drop in disease rates and death.

The enterprise started in 2009 when founder Shawn Seipler was travelling a lot for his high-pressure technology job. He learned the bars of soap he barely touched were thrown out every morning by the cleaning staff, totalling millions around the world every day. This piqued his interest, and when he later discovered that proper hand-washing could potentially prevent the deaths of millions of children every year, he connected the dots and decided to learn how to recycle soap.

Today Clean the World works with more than 4000 hotel partners across North America and in 2014, decided to expand its operations to Asia. Its new hotel soap recycling plant in Hong Kong helps sterilise and recycle leftover soapbars for areas in need, particularly across South East Asia and India.

Children received the finished product of recycled soap bars.
The recycled soap gets into the right hands. Image by Clean the World.

As well as distributing more than 30 million recycled soap bars to children and families in developing nations, the American company also works domestically with places like homeless shelters to help tackle preventable illnesses. The organisation also accepts gifts of discarded shampoo, conditioner and lotions to assemble hygiene kits that are distributed to people suffering as a result from natural disasters, including the Nepal earthquake in 2015.

While the company do not accept small-scale donations of soap, travellers can help by ensuring they don’t take home or throw out their own hotel soaps and shampoos or they can raise funds or host a volunteering event.