I’m not gonna lie, I love hotels. I get to be treated like someone special there and I don’t have to do much, but everything can stay neat and/or clean. Yes, I realize that hotels can be not eco-friendly, that’s why I rarely stay there, I’m just saying that when I do, I don’t hate it.
But enough about that. Speaking of hotel eco-friendliness, what happens to the small soap bars usually available in hotel rooms after we use them?
In conventional hotels, these soaps don’t usually have a second life. Once we check out of our hotel, they’re going to replace the soap bars. It doesn’t matter if we’ve only used them for once or twice only or if we’ve taken them with us. Because who wants to use used soaps? Nobody knows what the previous guests’ skin conditions are.
To make this problem have a positive, environment-friendly solution, Soap Cycling from Hong Kong is helping to recycle hundreds of thousands of such bars discarded in hotels across Hong Kong. After recycling, they distribute the soaps in hygiene kits, comprised of recycled soaps, surgical masks, and hand sanitizers, to the homeless and schoolchildren from low-income communities.
The non-governmental organization, which was founded in 2012, has partnered with over 80 hotels in the territory including five-star ones like the Island Shangri-La and the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. Last year, the NGO has collected about 17,545 kg (about 19 tons) of soaps. That amount just from 80 hotels, I mean wow.
“We are here to help people who are in desperate need of hygiene products,” said Matthew Mo, the operations manager of Soap Cycling. He explained that recycling the soap helps to reduce the environmental impact as well.
Once the soaps are collected, volunteers process them at a warehouse. First, they scrape off the top layer then they shred the bars into flakes and finally mold them into bigger sized bars. What about sanitizing? Mo said that this process isn’t necessary because its pH value is not conducive for bacterial growth.
There are around 5000 hygiene kits sent per year to ImpactHK, another non-governmental organization in Hong Kong that works with the homeless.
Michelle Wong, program manager of the NGO, said of the people to whom they give out the packs, “Where they stay, they can’t really keep any belongings. That’s why this kind of hygiene kit, as a tester or sample size, actually fits their needs.”
Soap Cycling is based in Hong Kong, but they’ve expanded their recycling program to mainland China as well as other countries like Myanmar and Singapore. Additionally, they distribute their recycled soaps to the Philippines and Cambodia.
Hilton is doing similar thing
Before, conventional hotels simply dump the used soaps in the garbage, which sounds like a good thing to do in the past but certainly not now. In today’s time, hotels have decided to recycle their soaps to help keep the little bars out of landfills.
Hilton Hotels has just launched an initiative to conserve and save our planet Earth involving their soap bars.
According to CNN Business, Hilton Hotels is teaming up with Clean the World, an organization that collects used soaps from hotels, melts them down, sanitizes them, and creates brand new bars of soap for people in need.
The company has announced that they will collect used bars of soap from their hotels, including Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites, and turn them over to Clean the World for recycling. Similar to Soap Cycling, Clean the World makes recycled soaps and hygiene kits for homeless shelters around the world.
This isn’t the first time Hilton Hotels doing an eco-conscious initiative. Previously in 2018, the company launched a plan to reduce its carbon emissions by 61%. In order to achieve that, they plan to reduce plastic (including removing straws from hotels) and water consumption.
I’ve got used soap bars, what do I do?
So you’ve got some used soap bars around you, maybe they’ve turned so small that it’s hard to use them now. Well, you can recycle or repurpose them! If you want to recycle, just grate or chop all the soap pieces you have into a pot, just a regular pot.
Add water as you go and melt the grated soaps on low-medium heat. Don’t stir too much (do it gently) or the soap is going to bubble too much. Then, the pieces will soften and turn into a hard slurry. Once the slurry is hard to stir, add fragrance oil that you like or maybe new colors (or not, you don’t have to recolor the recycled soaps).
You can shape this new soap into balls (or a mold) and let them cool for a couple of weeks. Remember to use gloves because the base will be warm or hot. After you’re done “cooking” the soap, wash the pot as soon as possible, otherwise the soap will harden and ruin your pot. You can find video tutorials on YouTube or other social media platforms.
If you have only a small soap bar or two and you can’t recycle them, then you can just melt them and then add water to make liquid soap. Which is good if you’ve got an empty pump soap bottle that has been sitting for a while in your reuse box.
Also, you can repurpose some soap bars by placing them into a thin sock/stocking/pair of tights/net bag and hang them near an outdoor water tap. The fabric or net will keep much of the dirt/grime away from the soap itself and they help increase lather as well. This is good if you have a garden and/or if you like gardening. You don’t need to bring dirt into your house when you want to clean your hands anymore.
Have you got any good ideas about recycling or repurposing old soap bars? Share them in the comment box below so that other people can see it and do something about the soaps instead of tossing it to the rubbish bin. Happy recycling/repurposing!