I spend about 60 to 80 nights in hotels every year. Given that some stays are for more than one night, I therefore estimate that I use about 50 hotel soap bars a year. Some of those are small, but some are quite substantial and elaborate.
About a year ago I put a little zip-lock bag into my wash kit so I could take those home, either to use, or to accumulate to see how much soap I personally wasted in a single year. The little box in the bathroom started filling up and eventually I threw it all out.
So let me step on my soapbox, literally this time.
I recently read an unsettling book about children in the slums of India titled Behind the Beautiful Forevers.
Look at the little girl on the cover, sitting on her haunches in a pool of sewage. I believe that this bar of soap that I left in my hotel room this morning could wash this child for a month or more, keeping her clean and above all, much more healthy. Yet, I have no way to get this bar of soap into the hands of the child, just like I can’t deliver to India the pile of perfectly good food that the people at the table next to me just left on their plates and on the floor.
I personally, doing simple math, probably throw away ten times as much soap in hotels every year as I legitimately use at home in my shower. Due to the large amount of travel I do, I may not be a very representative example. But 1 million bars of soap is a lot of soap that is going to waste.
Researching this further, I found that there are movements underway to recover this. For instance, Clean the World is a foundation that does just this, collect slightly used bars of soap, cleans them and recycles them.
I found it somewhat astonishing they are actually worried about the “gently used” bars of soap harming the recipients.
Clean the World is committed to maintaining an environmentally and hygienically safe recycling process. As the world’s first, high volume soap recycler, Clean the World ensures that all bars of soap recycled and distributed domestically and abroad are completely safe and will not harm the end-user due to disease or pathogens that can be transmitted if proper re-purposing does not exist.
Read the book Behind the Beautiful Forevers and you will be convinced that if this little girl on the cover actually DID get a used bar of soap from the Embassy Suites into her hands, the last thing she’d do would be using it. She would trade it for money or something to eat, because she would look at a used bar of soap as something of a treasure, far higher in value than the bottle caps, pieces of plastic, glass and metal trash that she normally trades with.
Here is some more information in case you are interested in hotel waste recycling, something most of us don’t even give a second thought in this country of abundance.
And that’s why they call us Rich Americans. We can waste soap.