It is estimated that hotels in Bali throw away nearly 50,000 hotel soaps combined every week, and that the average 400-room hotel throws away nearly 3.5 tonnes of soap year. These numbers are shocking considering the waste crisis Bali is currently experiencing and the number of people across the island who have little or no access to basic hygiene products. However, one company is tackling the problem head-on with a programme that aims to alleviate waste and help local communities by improving hygiene and providing a means of livelihood.
Soap for Hope is the brainchild of Sealed Air Corp, a cleaning and sanitation solutions provider, and it aims to recycle lightly used hotel guest soap and distribute it to underprivileged families and communities in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The project was first launched in 2003 in the UAE in collaboration with the Grand Hyatt Dubai and Shangri-la Dubai, and today it operates in over 50 hotels in 10 countries to divert soap from landfills and donate soap to those who need it most.
The mechanisms of the Soap for Hope programme are simple. Sealed Air teams up with a local NGO and partner hotel and then sends over the equipment to recycle the soap. They also help set up the equipment, train local people to recycle the soap and help distribute the soap to local communities. Everything is done on site and there are no costs to any of the partners or local communities.
The soap is made using a cold-press method that requires no electricity and minimal equipment. In this way the process is carbon neutral and the local community can operate the equipment without the need for an industrial plant or a great deal of space. After the soap is processed the hotels buy back the new soap bars and distribute them to the wider community. The results are less solid waste, new skill sets and means of livelihood for local people and better sanitation in villages.
Here in Bali the R.O.L.E. Foundation has picked up the reins and is now running the Soap for Hope project in partnership with Sealed Air and Conrad Bali. They collect the slightly used soap and employ at-risk women to bleach it, sanitize it and rework it, even adding in organic fragrances like lemongrass and lavender. They then distribute the finished product to orphanages, the elderly and disadvantaged people in Bali for free and sell the soap in the foundation shop.
To find out more about Soap for Hope or the R.O.L.E.’s other Waste to Wonder programmes, visit the R.O.L.E. Foundation’s website or their information centre in Nusa Dua.