Group on mission to save the soap
Group on mission to save the soap Aaron Weatherly collects newly formed soap at Clean the World in Las Vegas (AP photo / Thinkstock)
Group on mission to save the soap
Lexile: 730L

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Shawn Seipler is on a mission to save lives. He wants to do it with soap.

It began about seven years ago. It was a tiny operation. A few friends and family met in a single car garage in Orlando, Florida. They used meat grinders, potato peelers and cookers to recycle used soap into fresh bars.

The nonprofit initiative is now called Clean the World. It has grown to include industrial recycling facilities in Las Vegas, Orlando and Hong Kong, cities where hotels are plentiful. The used bars of soap can be gathered easily by the thousands.

As a frequent traveler while working for a tech company, Seipler had a thought one night. He was staying at a Minneapolis hotel. He called the front desk. He asked what happens to the bar of soap when he's done using it.

"They said they just threw it away."

Seipler is now the group's CEO. He discovered that millions of used bars of soap from hotels worldwide are sent to landfills. Meanwhile, many people in developing nations are dying from illnesses. Some could potentially be prevented if the people had access to simple hygiene products.

Thus began his mission. He's out to save lives. His weapons are soap and even half-used bottles of amenities like shampoo.

"It's a huge problem," said Dr. William Schaffner. He is a professor of preventative medicine and infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. "One of the most common kinds of illnesses in the world are those that are transmitted from person to person and to oneself because of germs that are on one's hands."

In the U.S. and other developed nations, Schaffner noted, people take hygiene products for granted. That's because they are everywhere. Soap is in public restrooms. There are also cleanser wipes at the entrances of grocery stores to sanitize shopping cart handles.

That's not the case in some other countries. Schaffner recalled visiting a hospital in the Middle East. Soap was in short supply. Patients had to provide their own or go without.

Having access to soap could disrupt the transmission of germs. That could save lives, the professor said.

"It's not a magic wand. But it's a very important element."

Clean the World has announced it was partnering with the similar Global Soap organization. They want to increase production, hygiene education and delivery.

The combined group now collects used soap from more than 4,000 hotels. The group says it has delivered some 25 million bars to 99 countries. That includes homeless shelters in the U.S.

The process is fairly simple. The collected soap is shredded. Then it is run through machines. That removes bacteria. After that, the soap is pressed into new bars. Then it is packaged for delivery.

The group uses local aid and nongovernmental organizations to help with distribution and ongoing education. The group also sends its own teams into rural communities around the world. They hand-deliver hygiene products. They also teach residents about the importance of keeping clean.

"A lot of people are surprised to find out that one of the most effective ways to prevent many deaths is actually just hand-washing with soap," said Global Soap's director Sam Stephens.

"We're hoping to make a difference."

Critical thinking challenge: How can access to simple hygiene products, such as soap, prevent illness?

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Assigned 46 times

  • DerekH-Rho
    4/21/2015 - 11:57 a.m.

    Even though I am a 4Th grader I even save soap.

  • Tiffany0307-yyca
    4/22/2015 - 08:57 p.m.

    I think using soap to help the world is kind of useful, and it is a bit smart too. I think the soap-making process is interesting, because now I can tell some of the people I know how those people get the old soap and turn it into new ones. I think that this is very nice of that man (Shawn Seipler) because he is trying to come up with good things and is trying to save the planet from suffering. I think he is very smart because I don't really think that anyone had an idea to save the world with soap. That is kind of really imaginative to think about.
    Critical Thinking Challenge: How can access to simple hygiene products, such as soap, prevent illness?
    Answer: They can prevent illness when we are very dirty and we didn't wash our whole body enough, and all our private body parts, we may end up getting very sick and it is very disgusting, dirty, and unhealthy too.

  • florenciabenaventerubio
    4/25/2015 - 04:37 p.m.

    Having an element to maintain adequate personal hygiene is an important staple, and that some people cannot have that for problems, like, economics, or hard access areas is very unfortunate but that can be solved with great ideas like this.

    Soap seems to be something not very important, and maybe we dont appreciate as it should be, but as the text says that we can do great things with this, and prevent major killer diseases.

    I think that is a very interesting and original idea, and we should share with one another to continue the idea: save lives.
    "A lot of people are surprised to find out that one of the most effective ways to prevent many deaths is actually just hand-washing with soap," said Global Soap's director Sam Stephens.
    "We're hoping to make a difference."

    For me it is new, I never thought that a simple measure could save lives.

  • CharlotteR-Saw
    4/27/2015 - 01:56 p.m.

    I think it is an amazing idea, it would be a way to help save soap and save lives. I should tell my mom to recycle our soap and pass it on to the ill.

  • shelbym-pay
    9/14/2015 - 11:21 a.m.

    That was real nice and cool for him to do that for illness that are dandrees.

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