The idea grew from a tiny operation housed in a single-car garage, into a recycling scheme which uses industrial facilities in Las Vegas, Orlando and Hong Kong. Clean the World collects used bars of soaps from hotels and recycles them, writes Brian Skoloff for the Associated Press.

Recycled Hotel Soap Saving Lives In Developing World

CEO Seipler inspired by frequent hotel stays

Seipler, a frequent traveler due to his job at a tech company, was inspired one night at a hotel in Minneapolis. “I picked up the phone and called the front desk and asked them what happens to the bar of soap when I’m done using it,” he recalled. “They said they just threw it away.”

CEO Seipler claims that his research revealed that used bars of soap are sent to landfills in their millions, while hygiene problems in the developing world cause the deaths of many people. Greater access to soap and shampoo could help to reduce instances of life-threatening illnesses caused by poor hygiene.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. “One of the most common kinds of illnesses in the world are those that are transmitted from person to person and to oneself because of germs that are on one’s hands.”

Using humble soap to save lives

In the developed world we take hygiene products for granted because of their availability, however this is not the case in many parts of the world.

“It’s such a fundamental part of the interruption of transmission of infectious agents that could save so many lives,” Schaffner said. “It’s not a magic wand, but it’s a very important element.”

This week Clean the World announced a partnership with a similar organization known as Global Soap in order to boost production, hygiene education and delivery. The newly combined group draws on a network of 4,000 hotels worldwide, and has now delivered around 25 million bars to 99 countries, including shelters for the homeless in the U.S.

Used bars are shredded, passed through machines that remove bacteria and pressed, before being packaged for delivery. A network of local helpers and NGOs assist with delivery and education, and teams from the company also work on education programs.