What happens to hotel soaps?, a question transformed into solidarity

Millions of pills of soap used in hotels end up in the garbage every day, a waste with which the American Shawn Seipler and your organization clean the world help protect from disease life-threatening to children in 127 countries.

For his job in a sales department for a technology company, Seipler had to leave his home in Florida to travel across the United States and sleep four nights a week in hotels.

In one of them, located in Minneapolis, one day in 2008 he had his particular epiphany, which has led him to distribute some 70 million bars of soap recycled all over the world. Seipler, born in Fort Lauderdale (Florida) 46 years ago, wondered what was happening with the courtesy soaps of the hotels that often used only once and asked at reception.

When he found out that they were going to the garbage, he had the idea of ​​using them for the benefit of the nearly 9,000 children who die every year in the world from preventable diseases with good hand washing, such as pneumonia, cholera or simple but deadly diarrhea.

In an interview with Efe, he is proud that the company he founded and directs, Clean the World, contribute to the task of reducing the mortality rate of children under 5 years of age due to diseases related to lack of hygiene. According to him, from 2009 to 2020 the index has decreased by 65%.

“That is millions of children. They are millions of children,” stresses the head of an organization that claims to be part of the GWorld WASH Group of the United Nations.


Not only the great ideas behind giants like Apple, Amazon or Microsoft started in a garage. Seipler’s idea of recycle used soaps and donate them to the most needy he took his first steps in a very small one.

Using gloves and potato peelers, he and a group of relatives scraped and recycled a first shipment of used soaps that they collected from nearby hotels. This is how Clean the World was born, which he has already donated close to 70 million bars of soap recycled and is present in 127 countries.

In addition, it has prevented, in North America alone, more than a thousand tons of hotel waste from ending up in landfills. To achieve this, they have signed agreements with more than 8,100 hotels, including large chains such as Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton or Walt Disney Resorts, which in total represent 1.4 million rooms globally.


The first soaps were given to charities in Florida and arrived in Haiti shortly before the 2010 earthquake, that killed about 300,000 people.

What Seipler saw there overwhelmed him. They carried a shipment of 2,000 soaps and more than 10,000 people attended a local church. One of them, a mother with her baby in her arms, told him that she had already lost two children to illnesses that could well have been prevented with that simple combination of grease, caustic solution and water.

“Since then we have shipped about three million pills dand soap to that same area, to that church, to those mothers, to make sure they have their soap and hygiene needs met,” she explains.

But there are many more areas where these tablets have arrived with a drawing of a child next to soap bubbles and inside the traditional circular symbol of recycling: Central America, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, the border between Mexico and the United States, Somalia or Syria, among many others.

And soon they will also send hygiene kits with soap, shampoo, toothpaste and perhaps hand sanitizer or socks to Poland and Romania, where Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees arrive fleeing their country due to the Russian invasion.


Seipler speaks tenderly of the mothers who are given six million bars of soap every year, women victims of “abject poverty” who are grateful that with these wasted products in advanced countries they may not have to continue burying their children.

“The proudest moment is when they told me: ‘We pray that you not only bring us more, but that you can bring soap to other mothers in the world who are suffering just like us,'” she recalls.

But that dream of being able to help mothers around the world was in serious jeopardy when her initiative was most needed: the pandemic forced thousands of hotels to close and the flow of soaps was interrupted.

The NGO of this entrepreneur who opened a lemonade and popcorn street stall at the age of 7 has donated since 2017 more than 32,000 mobile showers so that homeless people can clean themselves in enclaves of the city where they are also offered services such as health advice mental. And he is already working on projects to recycle the huge amounts of plastic in the hotel industry and is concerned about the growing insecurity of access to clean water.

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