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Green Is The New Black

Clean The World: Have You Ever Wondered What Happens to Half-Used Hotel Soap?

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Clean The World works with hotels all over the world to recycle and repurpose the soap and other discarded hygiene products leftover in hotel rooms after guests check out. Their efforts have taken them to start in supporting hotels in Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Singapore and Taiwan. This is what they’re doing and who they’re helping…

Have you ever wondered what happens to all half-used soap you leave in your hotel room after you check out? Much of it ends up in the bin. In fact, millions of soap bars from hotels are thrown out every day. There are also millions of people around the world whose quality of lives could be improved with that soap. In fact, hygiene-related illnesses are one of the leading causes of death amongst children globally, claiming the lives of nearly 6,000 children under the age of 5 every day. Studies have proven that proper handwashing with soap is the single most effective way to prevent those deaths. This is the problem that Clean The World is trying to solve. Their mission is to save lives and protect the environment. They work with hotel groups to divert soaps from landfills and repurpose them into new soaps. 


Making waves globally for their initiatives since 2009, Clean The World Asia launched in Asia in 2014 and has already recycled, repurposed and distributed more than two million soaps throughout the region. Gyneth Tan-Murphy is the Managing Director of Clean The World Asia. She’s based in Hong Kong and works with hotels like the Sands China Macau and the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore as well as charities like the Children International Philippines in Manila and bridges the gap between them. We wanted to learn a little bit more about how the initiative is unfolding in Asia and Gyneth gave us all the answers.



GITNB: Clean The World has done tremendously around the world. How have efforts in Asia unfolded?

Thank you for your openness and interest in supporting Clean The World Asia (CTWA).  We recently celebrated our 5th Anniversary.  Our CSR Soap Recycling program is supported by hotels in Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Singapore and Taiwan.  We started in 2014 in response to humanitarian soap-aid when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in the end of 2013. 

Since then, we continue to give the majority of our soap bars to the Philippines, but also distribute to local Hong Kong and Singapore charities to support the elderlies, youth with disabilities and low-income families.  We also provide green hygiene education to Hong Kong and Singapore schools.


We’re aware of CTW’s global statistics but what impact have you made around Asia in numbers?

CTW Asia has distributed over two million bars of soap together with hygiene education.  We provide a guarantee that all soap collected by hotels are repurposed into as good as new bars of soap which are sent for cosmetic grade testing, to ensure it is safe for face and body.  We also believe that it is important to give soap with dignity, that is why we only distribute soap bars that we ourselves and our families are comfortable to use.


What are some of the cultural barriers or obstacles you’ve faced?

CTW Asia’s CSR program requires a financial investment by the hotel partners who want to join our programs, that can have significantly positive returns on their brand asset and marketing and communication content.  But sometimes this return on investment is not clear to some hotels, so we are still working on educating and engaging them.


On the flip side, what are some of the surprising positives you’ve found in Asia?

Our hotel partners are leaders within their industry and they understand and support our social and environmental mission and know that their investment in our programs will help us to scale our operations and our impact.

Who are some of the biggest and more corporate players when it comes to wanting to make a positive impact and change in Asia?

We don’t have any to share here, for a list of our hotel partners whom we work with you can refer to our Google Maps of hotel partners here ?.


What are some of the most staggering statistics when it comes to discarded soaps and shampoos from hotels?

Every day millions of bars of soap are discarded in hotels around the world.  On the other hand, every day 4,600 children under the age of 5 die from hygiene-related illnesses that are preventable just by the simple act of washing your hands with soap.


Can you explain the circular process, from the moment a bar of soap is discarded in a hotel room to it being distributed in developing countries?

The soap bars are collected separately by housekeeping staff into our soap collection bins.  We then collect the soap bins and bring it back to our recycling operation centre to be recycled into as good as new bars of soap. The steps involve crushing them into fine soap noodles, mixing in water and sanitizer and then re-moulding them into 100gm bars of soap.


In your own very personal experience, how have any charities or developing countries benefited from your work?

Children International Philippines is a regional charity we work with closely, who give out our soaps together with hygiene education to their children beneficiaries and also to the mothers.  These children are from the informal settlements and they report back that the soap helps improve the entire family’s health, there are less skin rash problems and everyone falls sick less often.


What are your five-year goals for Clean The World in Asia?

It’s hard to have five-year goals, but our one and two-year goals would be to scale our operations to other countries like China and other South East Asian countries too.


What are your very personal #LittleGreenSteps that you think people could learn from and easily adapt into their every day lives?

Use soap bars instead of liquid soap. It is better for the environment, healthier for your skin and lighter on your wallet.


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Olivia is a bon vivant with an insatiable appetite for...everything. Upon being horrified at the amount of rubbish she produced in a single day, her journey towards finding a better balance between being extravagant yet sustainable began. Like most obsessions, down the rabbit hole she went and it wasn’t long before she decided to shift her sustainable preachings from Friday nights after too much wine to every day at Green Is The New Black. Olivia is still trying to figure all this ‘the end of the world’ stuff out, so she is keepin’ it real, one super small #LittleGreenStep at a time. Be like Olivia.