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Several organizations are dedicated to recycling soap to help boost hygiene efforts in underdeveloped countries around the world. And today, Global Handwashing Day, puts the focus on these worthwhile endeavors.
One organization, Clean the World, says it is committed to reducing the waste created by discarded soap and shampoo products and collects these items from hotels to be recycled and distributed to domestic homeless shelters and impoverished people worldwide, helping to prevent millions of deaths caused by hygiene-related illnesses. Since its inception, Clean the World has been steadily increasing its services and operations to accommodate rapidly expanding community needs, awareness and donations, and has accepted in-kind donations of more than $2 million. In the process, Clean the World has put more than 6 million soap bars and 200,000 pounds of shampoo and conditioner back into human use, simultaneously eliminating nearly 375 tons of waste.
Clean the World maintains an environmentally and hygienically safe recycling process. As the worlds first high-volume soap recycler, Clean the World ensures that all bars of soap recycled and distributed domestically and abroad are completely safe and will not harm the end user due to disease or pathogens that can be transmitted if proper re-purposing does not exist.
First, the organization works with its partners in the hospitality industry to educate their staff on the soap and shampoo recycling program. The group provides bins which housekeeping staff uses to deposit collected soap; the bins are picked up weekly. The soap is taken to the organization's soap recycling plant where two recycling methods are used -- re-batching and sterilization. Re-batching is applied to 10 percent of moderately to heavily used bars. The soap is "cooked" to remove all impurities and then re-formed into two-ounce bars.
Clean the World's proprietary sanitization process is applied to 90 percent of the slightly used bars. The soap soaks in a sanitizing solution and is then treated with a steam/pressure combination. Clean the World then tests the soaps pH level and cools it for packaging.
To test the recycling process, Clean the World hired Tri-Tech Laboratories, a Florida state-certified testing facility. TriTech provided infected soap that was run through the standard Clean the World recycling process. The treated soap was tested for sterilization levels. The result was the complete elimination of pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aerogenes, Salmonella typhymurium, and Staphylococcus aureus.
Another organization, the Global Soap Project, also recovers and recycles soap from American hotels. The discarded soap is sanitized, melted and remolded into new bars, then distributed to refugee camps in Africa. To date, the Global Soap Project has enlisted more than 50 hotels in the Southeastern U.S. that have contributed more than 14,000 pounds of discarded soap.
The Global Soap Project says there is an almost infinite supply of available hospitality industry soap, with 4.6-million hotel rooms in the United States; an estimated 2.6-million soap bars are discarded every day. Repurposing this waste can greatly improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, one bar of soap at a time.