Unused Soap & Shampoo Problem Hits Salesman ‘Like a Hurricane’

6/12/2009 By Glenn Hasek

Shawn Seipler and Paul Till are not hoteliers but they have just launched an organization that could do more good for humanity than just about anything any of us will ever do. Allow me to explain. Shawn, who travels a lot for his sales job, frequently stays in hotels. He began to wonder what happened to the unused bars of soap and shampoo bottles left behind after his visits. Shawn, who is based in Orlando, Fla., called his friend Paul in Houston and they decided to do a survey. Together they called about 30 properties and representatives of those hotels all told the two that they just throw the unused items away. That did not sit too well with Shawn and Paul. Keep in mind that this all happened just earlier this year.

The two also started to do some research on hand washing and what happens in countries that do not have access to something as simple as a bar of soap. What they learned is that every year more than 5 million lives are lost—mostly children under the age of five in Africa—to diseases such as acute respiratory infection and diarrhea. Studies have shown that hand washing can greatly reduce the spread of these diseases. In fact, Shawn says, fatalities can be reduced by up to 65 percent. “If I can get soap into their hands, I can save some lives,” Shawn told me.

Have you ever been so inspired to do something that there was no stopping you? Well, Shawn said what he felt was like a hurricane inside him. In just a couple of months, Shawn, Paul and several others formed an organization called Clean the World, Inc. It is based in Orlando and has a mission of collecting used soap bars and partially used shampoo bottles from lodging establishments for the purpose of distributing them to those in need—whether the homeless here in the United States or those without soap and shampoo in other parts of the world.

Hoteliers Happy to Participate

Shawn was not sure how hoteliers would react to his message. He was a little nervous. Would they be willing to give his organization their soap and shampoo? What he discovered is that they are more than willing to do so. Today, about 80 hotels are participating in the central Florida area and about 20 more have committed to do so. Clean the World is also fielding queries from hoteliers and innkeepers from all over the United States who are interested in helping. Participants get to do something good for others while reducing waste at the same time.

You are probably wondering at this point how Clean the World intends to manage the collection of used soap and shampoo. As you can imagine, it takes manpower and money. Clean the World is in the process of becoming an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It is applying for grants and is in the process of establishing a partnership program that would require participants to contribute a reasonable amount to cover the cost of picking up the soap and shampoo. If hotels participate in a higher end partnership program, they would get tent cards and other advertising and public relations support. Clean the World currently has a collection facility in Orlando but would like to eventually open regional warehouses around the country. (Of course, at the property level a process has to be established by housekeeping for the collection of the soap and shampoo.)

Clean the World does care very much about how it processes the used items. With the help of an outside vendor, it has just perfected a multi-step process that involves the steam cleaning and sterilization of the soap bars. Shampoo bottles are sanitized and the shampoo inside is emptied into large jugs for distribution. The small bottles are then recycled.

Be Patient as Organization Grows

If you are interested in participating in Clean the World and are not in the Orlando area, you have the option of shipping your soap bars and shampoo bottles (at your cost) to the organization’s Orlando facility. Be patient with Clean the World as they get their organization up and running around the United States.

“We are hoping to launch our nationwide program in the next 30 to 60 days,” Shawn says.

I strongly support and commend Clean the World for what it is trying to accomplish. In a perfect lodging world, dispensers would eliminate all soap bar and shampoo waste. Until that day comes, I can think of no better way to deal with partially used soap and shampoo bottles than to donate them to those in need.

For more information on Clean the World’s efforts and to learn how to donate items and money, go to www.cleantheworld.org or contact Shawn Seipler at (407) 574-8353 and sseipler@cleantheworld.org, or Oscar Gonzalez at (407) 404-0423 and ogonzalez@cleantheworld.org.

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