Global Soap Project
Dakota Digest - 10/15/2010
By Cara Hetland
Global Hand washing Day is Friday, October 15, 2010.
A new organization is donating 20,000 bars of recycled soap to recognize the importance of washing hands as a way to prevent disease.
Yes, you heard right -- recycled soap - it’s left over waste from hotels.
A Watertown teenager is taking an active role in collecting used soap for the Global Soap Project.
Ever wonder what happens to those barely used bars of soap left behind after you leave a hotel room? Turns out there are four and a half million hotel rooms in the United States – and every day two and a half million bars of soap are sent to the landfill.
Derreck Kayongo has a hard time understanding all this waste.
“I’m a former refugee from Uganda who run away to Kenya with my parents,” says Kayongo. “Being a refugee is not an easy thing and I did see others becoming refugees like I was holding up in camps and they didn’t have basic things like soap.”
Kayongo is the founder of "The Global Soap Project." He got the idea after his first stay in a hotel in the United States.
“In the hotel they had three bars of soap. They had facial soap, body soap and hand washing soap. I didn’t know what the difference was. Nonetheless I took the two bars I had with me and I put inside my bag and hope that the next day I would use them. When I came back the following evening they replaced all the bars,” says Kayongo.
Kayongo went to apologize for taking the soap because he couldn’t afford to pay for new soap. That’s when he learned the soap came with the room and he also learned upon checkout– they throw away the used soap. Keyongo says millions of children die every year from acute respiratory and diarrheal infections that can be prevented. For him, soap saves lives.
“Soap is medicine – its basic function is to kill germs,” he says.
“Just knowing I’m helping prevent diseases and helping others live longer so they can be clean,” says 15-year-old Maren Johnson.
Johnson is all about soap but this wasn’t the case a short time ago. This spring her mom suggested she collect used soap – and in a typical teenager response she thought the idea was stupid.
“It sounded weird until I thought about it. I went to a meeting with all the hotel managers and I was surprised by the reaction,” says Johnson. “They were excited about it.”
Johnson told the managers of the Watertown hotels about the Global Soap Project. It’s a simple idea – hotels save used bars of soap and that soap is sent to Atlanta where it is reprocessed and cleaned and shaped into new bars of soap and then donated. Deb Stanley is the General Manager of the Best Western Ramkota Hotel in Watertown. She says it’s an exciting and simple project to be involved with.
“Our housekeepers basically put a plastic bag at their cart and its collected throughout the day. At the end of the day it’s dumped in our boxes – our collection boxes,” says Stanley.
Fifteen-year-old Maren Johnson collects the soap about once a month depending on her schedule.
The box is often overflowing. Since June she has collected 700 pounds of soap. When new a hotel size bar of soap weighs less than an ounce.
“A big waste,” says Johnson. “A lot of housekeepers have told me they didn’t realize how much soap they were throwing away. Now they see how much there is when it’s all in the boxes I made. They’re amazed.”
Johnson sends her soap to a collection point in Minneapolis where 7000 pounds are being shipped to Atlanta this week.
The Global Soap Project has collected 22 tons of used soap from 150 hotels around the United States in its first year. Founder Derreck Kayongo says 10,000 bars of soap have been distributed to refugees in Uganda, Kenya and Haiti. Twenty thousand bars are being donated to Med Share as part of global hand washing day. MedShare is a non profit company that distributes medical supplies to underserved areas.
Kayongo says the Global Soap Project is operated by volunteers. He says he doesn’t want it to be a for profit company.
“There is good in all of us banding together to solve a problem without having a profit motive,” says Kayongo.
Kayongo says if every hotel in the United States starts sending him used soap – he’ll have to expand quickly and he’ll need financial donations. But right now he’s collecting soap one box at a time from volunteers like Maren Johnson.
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