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What Happens to Used Hotel Soap?

What Happens to Used Hotel Soap?

It’s just a little bar of soap sitting on the hotel bathroom counter.

If opened it might be used a couple of times but it’s more than likely going to outlast a single hotel stay. It won’t be reused by the next hotel guest, so where does it go?

In some cases the answer is the landfill, but socially conscious hotel brands use them for the greater good.

Hotel toiletries
Some of the hotel toiletries that don’t get taken by guests are recycled. (©Becky Lai/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Clean the World

In the case of Clean the World—a nonprofit dedicated to sending that soap around the world where it’s most needed—there are 5,000 hotel partners who donate barely used soap bars. The soap bars are scraped off, melted down and made new again. Then, the bars are shipped to a network of 115 countries for children who may not have access to soap otherwise.

Because those children will also learn how to properly wash their hands using that reborn bar of soap, they have a 65 percent better chance of surviving respiratory and diarrheal diseases that are prevalent in those areas, yet easily preventable with proper hygiene.

Clean the World is the brainchild of Shawn Seipler, a former sales executive who traveled extensively and wondered what happened to the unused soap. He founded the company in a one-car garage in 2009 after learning that most of them were thrown away.

“He found out that over 9,000 children were dying every day from respiratory and diarrheal illnesses,” said Sandie Beauchamp, Clean the World senior director of marketing communications. “Many of these diseases could be prevented by giving them access to soap and hygiene products.”

Handing out soap to children
Clean the World teaches children how to properly wash their hands. (©Matt Burris/Courtesy Clean the World)

The organization leads Soap in Schools programs in countries like Kenya, Tanzania and India. In the U.S., hygiene kits containing soaps, shampoo, toothpaste and other items are distributed to the homeless, victims of domestic violence and victims of natural disasters. Its efforts have helped lead to a 35 percent reduction in death rates, dropping the number of hygiene-preventable diseases to 5,500 daily worldwide.

Product manager Rob Keefe pointed out that the project has one more positive side effect: those used soap bars are no longer filling up the landfills.

“It’s not just, ‘Hey, we’re doing this good thing,'” said Keefe. “We’re also saving the environment.”

The Disney Resorts, Hilton, Marriott and Wyndham are among the hotel chains that participate in Clean the World.

Recycled bars of soap
Recycled bars of soap (©Matt Burris/Clean the World)

Local Efforts

Resorts in the Fairmont brand donate their used soaps and shampoos to local nonprofits in their communities.

The downtown San Francisco location donates about 200 pounds of in-room amenities to the local Salvation Army. The hotel supplies 600 guest rooms, which leaves a lot of perfectly good, yet slightly used amenities that include soaps, lotions, half-used boxes of facial tissue and even partially-used rolls of toilet paper.

“The fact that we have to put a full roll of toilet paper in the room for each guest [makes us ask] ‘what do you do with a half-used roll of toilet paper?'” said Michelle Heston, Fairmont’s regional director of public relations.

The hotel has a commitment to recycling and reuse, and now with a new Upcycle initiative the Fairmont hotels donate nearly all of its used goods—mattresses, furniture and dishes—to homeless shelters and safe homes for domestic violence victims in the local communities.