Ever wondered what happens to the half-used bars of soap you leave behind after overnight stays in hotels?

In some cases, the soap gets recycled, thanks to a nonprofit named Clean the World.

The organization, which is based in Orlando, Florida, works with hotel partners to collect used soaps and recycle them for distribution to those in need. Since the organization was founded in 2009, it has distributed more than 40 million bars of soap to over 115 countries. And those numbers continue to grow.

Founder Shawn Seipler, who spent years in the technology industry, says the group’s mission is twofold: To recycle soap and hygiene products and to distribute these products to prevent hygiene-related deaths, reduce the morbidity rate for hygiene-related illnesses, and encourage childhood development programs. 

In honor of Earth Day later this month, Clean the World was the subject of a recent article on Thrillist. The piece cited a statistic that travelers and hotels combine to toss out roughly 1 million bars a day in the United States and perhaps 5 million bars a day worldwide.

This is why the idea of recycling used soaps is so worthwhile. According to Clean the World, the recycling program hangs a technique known as “rebatching.” This involves melting down the donated soaps, disinfecting the resulting mix, then forming them into new bars to send to impoverished countries. Clean the World collects bars by signing up hotels as “partners” in the effort. As part of this arrangement, hotels pay 50 cents per room per month, and the nonprofit sends bins to the hotels in which to collect the soaps. It also provides prepaid shipping labels for bin return and new bins upon request.

(Clean the World also recycles half-used shampoo bottles and goes through a similar process for repurposing those.) 

Among the nonprofit’s hotel partners: Disney and Hyatt, which created this video about the program:

  

Clean the World also has partnered with a number of domestic and foreign casino resorts; the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas has earned the distinction of top recycler to date with more than 102,000 pounds of soap recycled. The organization also partners with bed-and-breakfast inns and timeshares across the country. 

All told, Clean the World partnered with about 5,000 domestic hotels last year. In that same timeframe, the nonprofit made more than 7 million bars of soap, including 500,000 bars for Haiti and the Bahamas after Hurricane Matthew.

To be fair, this particular nonprofit isn’t the only option for hotels to recycle used soaps and shampoos; other hospitality companies have taken matters into their own hands. 

Resorts in the Fairmont brand partner with local nonprofits to donate partially used shampoos and conditioners within their respective communities. Case in point: The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn in Sonoma, California, donates used bottles of shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner to the YWCA Safe House of Sonoma County. 

Michelle Heston, Fairmont’s regional director of public relations, says that because the bottles are sealed, it’s not necessary to treat the cleaning fluids inside. Sounds like a win for everybody involved. 

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