Unlimited access to tiny individually-wrapped soaps is one of the many perks of a hotel stay. But what happens to soaps that aren’t used (or pilfered) during your visit? The answer may surprise you.
More than two million partially used bars of soap are discarded at North American hotels each day, according to the Global Soap Project. Even if hotel soaps haven’t been used, quality control standards usually prohibit cleaning staff from reusing the same soaps for multiple guests – especially if the paper wrapping is wet or opened. So, unused and partially used soaps are often destined for the landfill.
But Hilton Worldwide is planning to change all that at its 3,750 hotels by partnering with the Global Soap Project to recycle old soaps for a cause, the company announced on Tuesday. The Atlanta-based nonprofit will collect partially used soaps from Hilton and its subsidiaries, sanitize them and reprocess them into new bars – which are then distributed in developing countries.
Recycling soap eliminates a common hotel waste product and provides free sanitation options for people who are at risk of hygiene-related diseases, said Derreck Kayongo, founder of the Global Soap Project.
“When living as a refugee in Kenya, I realized soap was hard to come by, even completely nonexistent sometimes,” Kayongo remembered. “Even when available, those living on less than a dollar a day had to choose between buying food or soap. People were suffering from illness simply because they couldn’t wash their hands.”
Hand washing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, which together are responsible for more than 3.5 million child deaths each year, the nonprofit said.
The hotel giant expects their donations to yield 1 million new four-ounce bars of soap in the partnership’s first year. In addition to donating soap, Hilton is investing $1.3 million over the next three years to help expand the nonprofit’s processing capabilities. The company said it hopes to help the Global Soap Project recycle the high volumes of soap generated by the sector, at zero cost to hotel properties.
The nonprofit is “thrilled” with the partnership and hopes it will empower other hotel companies to recycle their soap to support those in need, Kayongo said. Since its inception in 2009, the Global Soap Project has distributed more than 25 tons of soap in 20 countries across four continents.