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Your leftover hotel shampoo is saving thousands of lives

Nicole Goodkind
·Nicole Goodkind

Have you ever wondered what happens to the leftover shampoo and soap at hotels? Six years ago Shawn Seipler had the same thought. As a sales executive, he spent about 150 days each year in a hotel and left a lot of half-filled shampoo bottles and barely used bars of soap behind. He called downstairs and was told that leftover toiletries were simply thrown out. It turns out that Americans throw out nearly 1 million bars of soap everyday. Meanwhile, there are 2.7 billion people around the globe without access to basic sanitation and there are 1.5 million childhood deaths each year due to diseases prevented by hand washing, according to the World Health Organization.

Seipler put two-and-two together and in the beginning of 2009 launched “Clean the World,” with a mission to work with hotels across the world to collect soap and bottled amenities, recycle them and send them to children in need. The company has three large recycling centers where they process donated soap. In the centers, the soap goes through a disinfecting process and is melted and repackaged into new bars of soap.

Through partnerships with Hilton Worldwide (HLT), Starwood Hotels & Resorts (HOT), Marriott International (MAR), IHG (IHG), Best Western, Hyatt (H), Walt Disney World (DIS), Las Vegas Sands (LVS) and Caesars Entertainment (CZR) “Clean the World,” has donated 25 million bars of soap to more than 99 countries. “While we’ve done that we’ve diverted 7 million pounds of waste from North American and Asian landfills,” says Seipler.

“It’s a simple concept that makes sense,” says Seipler. “Everybody stays in a hotel and I can’t tell you the number of times folks have said ‘I’ve wondered what happens to the soap and shampoo when I’m done using it.’”

Seipler says that on his missions to hand out soap he often meets mothers living on less than $2 USD a day who have to make a choice between buying food or buying soap. Soap, of course, isn’t the thing that’s on the top of their list. “When we hand them this bar knowing that it was destined for a landfill…they tear up, they’re so grateful…it is the most fulfilling meaningful part of the mission.”

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