How do you clean soap? Better yet, how do you safely recycle soap that has touched any number of body parts? Shawn Seipler and Paul Till, cofounders of the nonprofit corporation Clean the World, defied conventional wisdom that no one could reuse something as intimate as used bars of soap to create an emerging powerhouse in the hospitality industry that works to save lives of people around the world
“Each day in North America, nearly two million bars of soap and tiny, plastic hair care bottles are discarded as trash,” Seipler says, accounting for nearly 358 tons of soap and plastic going to landfills every day. The duo wondered what would happen if those hygiene products were diverted to those who desperately need them, such as the 9,000 young children around the world who die each day from major illnesses that could be prevented with proper hygiene, including washing with soap and water.
So in 2009 in a home garage, Seipler and Till started repurposing soap. Today, the organization headquartered in Orlando, Florida, has four recycling facilities across North America collecting toiletries from more than 1,200 hotel partners with a total of 270,000 rooms. Major hospitality names such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Walt Disney World Resort, Caesars Entertainment and Mandarin Oriental Hotels have signed on.
More than 40,000 soaps are sorted and cleaned by hand each day by a very small staff and an army of volunteers, from school children to corporate groups. Then the soaps are recycled using a process certified to kill 100% of pathogens. In less than three years, more than 600 tons of hotel waste have been collected, allowing Clean the World to distribute more than 9 million bars of soap in 45 countries around the world, including the U.S. and Haiti.