What Happens to Used Hotel Soaps?

If you travel a lot, you may have noticed hotels are cutting back on their amenities, like those little bottles of shampoo. But one amenity is still popular enough to be continued despite the cost — little bars of soap.

Fine, but think for a second — they’re small, but not small enough to be used up during a normal stay. So what happens to all that leftover soap?

Shawn Seipler is a man who has always hated waste. At one time he was traveling frequently, and he got to wondering what happened to all the soap bars he left behind. So he asked, and the answer dismayed him — “We throw it away.”

What a waste! This revelation led to some research, which led to another revelation — around the world, about 6,000 children under the age of five were dying every day from pneumonia and diarrheal disease. And the most effective preventative measure was for children to wash their hands. If only they had soap…

Long story short, Seipler founded a non-profit organization appropriately named Clean the World to provide soap and hygiene products to needy people around the world. From the Clean the
World website (https://cleantheworldfoundation.org/):

“Diarrheal diseases kill approximately 1.8 million people per year. Globally, approximately 2.5 billion cases of diarrhea occur among children under 5 years of age every year. About 80 percent of those cases are in Africa and South Asia. The World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank promote access to water, sanitation, and hygiene as the most efficient and cost effective intervention to reduce this tragic statistic. Besides combatting diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea, improved WASH access also addresses a wide range of lesser known, but nevertheless debilitating, tropical diseases. These illnesses often are neglected by an overwhelmed medical system in developing countries.”

To date Clean the World has claimed to have helped over 15,000,000 people in over 127 countries. It’s a simple way to combat one of the world’s most insidious health problems.

For more on how Clean the World was founded, listen to the Freakonomics podcast “The Economics of Everyday Things: Used Hotel Soaps” (https://freakonomics.com/podcast/the-economics-of-everyday-things-used-hotel-soaps/)

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