Recycling hotel soap to save lives

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

That particular bar of soap that you may have used once or twice during your last hotel stay could now be helping poor children in the Third World fight disease.

Derreck Kayongo and his Atlanta-based Global Soap Project collect used hotel soap from across the United States and reprocess those bars into new bars of soap.

Instead of used bars of soap from the hospitality industry ending up in landfills, the soaps are cleaned and reprocessed for shipment to impoverished nations such as Haiti, Uganda, Kenya and Swaziland.

Each year, hundreds of millions of soap bars are discarded in North America alone, and those are predominately those small bars of soap from hotel and other hospitality venues. They are used once or twice and they are then consigned to the dustbin of history and the landfill.

Kayongo, a Uganda native, thought of the idea in the early 1990s, when he first arrived to the U.S. and stayed at a hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He noticed that his bathroom was replenished with new soap bars every day, even though they were only slightly used.

Kayongo said that he tried to return the new soap to the hall porter since he thought they were charging him for it and when I was told it was just hotel policy to provide new soap every day he just found it hard to believe.

This experience made him think to take some of this soap and recycling it, making brand new soap from it and then sent it home to people who couldn't afford soap.

For Kayongo, collecting soap is "a first line of defense" mission to combat child-mortality around the world.

Each year, more than 2 million children die from diarrheal illness - the approximate population of San Antonio, Texas – simply because of bad hygiene and lack of soap. And the issue is not the availability of soap; the issue is cost.

If people make $1 a day, and soap costs 25 cents you can bet your bottom dollar that they are not going to spend that 25 cents on a bar of soap. They are going to buy sugar, they are going to buy medicine; all the things I think are keeping them alive. Soap is very low down on the list. Probably also due to the fact that they do not see soap as something that will keep them alive.

And then we find that people – businesses especially – just throw away such once used bars of soap.

One advice, slightly on the side. If you stay in a hotel and they have that policy retain your soap and take it home with you. You can get a few more uses out of it and then follow the example here and remelt it into new bars with other slivers.

While this is not, exactly, what the Global Soap Project does, as they do not mix the different soaps, because it would change the pH factor of the soap, the type and the scent, if and when you do it yourself that does not, generally matter.

While I haven't, as yet, but a bar together from the soap slivers that I have collected at home I aim to do so in the not so distant future. Generally, also, I tend to use liquid soap for washing hands and for showering and this soap, in fact, is Fairy dish washing liquid. A lot cheaper and more effective than other “real” liquid soap.

There are instructions for the remaking of soap on the Internet so I am not even going to try and write up a recipe or two here. However, according the Mother Earth News Network you can make soap in the microwave in a small ramekin dish quite easily and it is that that I will try soon.

Want to get involved then check out the Global Soap Project website at and see how to help.

© 2011