By Brandi Godbee, Clean the World
Most are thrown away. About 1 million bars of soap are tossed out daily by U.S. hotels, according to Clean the World, an Orlando-based nonprofit organization that recycles used soap for distribution to developing nations and domestic homeless shelters.
In time for Earth Day, Clean the World announced that it inked an agreement with Starwood Hotels to collect and recycle soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions and gels.
The deal is Clean the World's first to cover an entire multi-brand hotel network.
They estimate about 1.6 million pounds of soap may be recycled each year through the agreement since Starwood has about 176,000 rooms in North America. Starwood, one of the world's largest hotel operators, runs Westin, Sheraton and other hotel chains.
The agreement could involve up to 500 Starwood hotels in North America.
Clean the World has had collection deals with about 1,000 individual hotels, but the Starwood partnership is its first corporate-wide agreement with a large hotel company. It hopes to sign with other large companies, like Marriott or Hilton.
Since its founding two years ago, Clean the World has distributed more than 8 million bars of soap to families in the U.S. and more than 40 countries, including Haiti, Japan, Zimbabwe, Uganda, India, Honduras, Mexico and Albania. It estimates its efforts have diverted about 550 tons of hotel waste from polluting landfills in the U.S. and Canada.
"Each day, 9,000 children around the world die from diseases such as acute respiratory illness and diarrheal diseases that can be prevented by washing with bar soap," the organization says.
"(This partnership) should make every member of our Starwood family feel better about the role they play," says Denise Coll, president of Starwood Hotels' North America division, in a statement.
Clean the World was founded by Shawn Seipler and Paul Till, who were corporate salesmen before quitting their jobs to embrace the cause. "We started doing the math and figured that's a lot of soap that's being tossed out," Seipler toldCBS News in 2009.
They started by collecting soap from 80 Orlando hotels. Other hotels quickly followed. So far, the organization has distributed about 8 million soap bars, says spokesman Matt Gomez.
Clean the World now has four recycling operation centers in North America, including Orlando, Las Vegas, Vancouver and Toronto. It plans to open in other cities.
For its partner hotels, Clean the World provides bins for housekeeping staff to use in depositing collected soap and shampoo/lotion bottles. The collection is taken to its recycling plant, where soap is sterilized and reformed into 2-ounce bars. Its current capacity can handle about 10,000 bars a day. With new equipment soon to be installed, it'll be able to handle 40,000 a day, Gomez says.
Its nonprofit partners, including World Vision, Floating Doctors, The Salvation Army and St. Jude's Ranch for Children in Nevada, distribute reprocessed soap bars and cleaned shampoo bottles. Last year, its soap bars were distributed widely throughout Haiti by Orlando-based Cap Haitien Health Network after a catastrophic earthquake flattened the island country.