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

Shawn Seipler is on a mission to save lives with soap.

It began about seven years ago as a tiny operation. A few friends and family met in a single car garage in Orlando, Florida, where 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 and asked what happened 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 said that after some research 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 that could potentially be prevented if they only had access to simple hygiene products.

Thus began his mission. He's out to save lives with 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 once in the Middle East to find that soap was in such short supply that 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 with the collected soap being shredded then run through machines that remove any residual bacteria before being pressed into new bars of soap and packaged for delivery.

The group uses local aid and non-governmental organizations to help with distribution and ongoing education, along with sending their own teams into rural communities around the world to personally hand-deliver hygiene products and to 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?

Assigned 3 times


COMMENTS (2)
  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    10/15/2015 - 10:44 p.m.

    I think this is cool because this is supposed to help people in countries that don't have access to simple hygiene products. The group, Clean the World, is looking forward to helping countries like Africa and the Philippines.
    How can access to simple hygiene products, such as soap, prevent illness?
    Answer: Access to simple hygiene products prevent illness because they kill off the germs on your hand.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    4/19/2016 - 07:17 p.m.

    I think that it is amazing how Shawn Seipler is on a mission to help people by delivering soap. I think that the hotels who throw away used soaps should at least try to use it somehow. It is a wast of soap. Shawn set out on a mission and made a group called Clean the World. Clean the World also partnered with other groups to help people. Clean the World gets used soap from hotels and use machines to shred and clean it.
    Access to simple hygiene products, such as soap can prevent illnesses because it can help reduce the spread of germs which cause the illnesses.

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