Global Soap Project uses hotel soap to save lives

Want to contribute to global health? Look no further than your local hotel – and their stash of used soap.

The Global Soap Project, founded in 2009 by Uganda native Derreck Kayongo, collects used hotel soap from hotels across the country, cleaning and reprocessing the bars before shipping them overseas to countries like Haiti, Kenya, Uganda and Swaziland.

Kayongo emigrated to the United States in the early 1990s and was shocked by the wastefulness of hotels who replaced rooms with new bars of soap each day.

“I tried to return the new soap to the concierge since I thought they were charging me for it,” Kayongo said. “When I was told it was just hotel policy to provide new soap every day, I couldn’t believe it.”Hundreds of millions of bars are discarded each year, Kayongo, a recipient of the CNN Heroes Award, told the news channel.

“The issue is not the availability of soap. The issue is cost,” Kayongo said. “Make $1 a day, and soap costs 25 cents. I’m not a good mathematician, but I’m telling you I’m not going to spend that 25 cents on a bar of soap. I’m going to buy sugar. I’m going to buy medicine. I’m going to do all the things I think are keeping me alive.”

Kayongo contacted his father, a former soap maker in Uganda, and began to devise a plan to send the soap back to countries in need.

So far, around 300 hotels participate in the program, which uses volunteers to collect the soap and ship to the Project’s main Atlanta warehouse. The bars are “reprocessed,” a procedure which includes sanitization, chilling, and re-cutting. The bars are then sent to a third party lab for approval before being sent overseas. The process is simple, but time-consuming, Kayongo, says, as bars of different brands cannot be mixed.

To date, the Global Soap Project has provided more than 100,000 bars of soap for communities in nine countries.

Thank you to CNN for the tip and for honoring such a worthy recipient with your award.