hotels recycled soaps

 What makes our socially responsible recycled hotel soaps so special?

Before we start speaking about our recycled hotel soaps, we will talk about the beginning of soap. Soap is an ancient product whose first reference can be traced back in the Sumerian clay tablets back to 2.500 BC. This soap was made by mixing animal fats with wood ash and water. The Egyptians too bathed with a mixture of animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to create a soaplike substance. There is evidence too that Romans produced it and according to Pliny the Elder, the Phoenicians used goat’s tallow and wood ashes to create soap in 600 BC. Early Romans made soaps in the first century AD from urine. Soap was widely known in the Roman Empire. With the fall of the Empire, the popularity of soap and bathing, went into decline. Soapmaking guilds began to spring up in Europe during the seventeenth Century. Many scientific achievements in the following Century made soap more popular and accessible.

In the early days soap was not made for bathing and personal hygiene but was rather produced for cleaning cooking utensils or goods or was used for medicine purposes. The thought of soap as an hygiene product dates back to 1847 when the young doctor Ignaz Semmelweiss discovered in the birth station at a hospital in Vienna that a proper handwashing could prevent diseases and therefore deaths.

So why is the use of soap important? But furthermore why do we love soap?

Soap is fun; it feels nice and slippery, you can blow bubbles with it and it often smells lovely. But it also keeps you healthy because it makes it easy for us to remove germs.

Soap is inexpensive, universally applicable and almost indefinitely durable.

Speaking about its composition, soap has two sided molecules: one end of the molecule is attracted to water, the other to fat. So when the soap molecules come in contact with water and fat, these dual attraction pulls the fat apart, surrounding the oil particles and dispersing them through the water. The viruses too have a fat layer, so during handwashing with soap, the interaction with this product pulls the virus fat membrane apart and destroys the virus. And then the water rinses the harmless, leftover shards of virus down the drain.

In 2016 the UN International Children’ Emergency Fund stated that a proper handwashing with soap can save the lives of 800 children under 5 years per day in the world. According to new estimates from UNICEF in 2020, 40 per cent of the world’s population – or 3 billion people – do not have a handwashing facility with water and soap at home. The number is much higher in least developed countries, where nearly three-quarters go without.

How did the seed of SapoCycle soap recycling program germinated?

Dorothée Schiesser, SapoCycle’s founder and president, and her husband, a Swiss hotelier, who have lived in Cameroon, were exposed to the necessities and lack of hygiene products in the local population. On the other hand, as being in the hospitality industry, they witnessed the waste of products that were of vital importance to millions of people around the world. Among this came the SOAP. So she started making research and thinking how could the tons and tons of discarded soap be repurposed to reach the hands of people in extreme precarity and poor hygienic conditions.

This is when in 2014 the idea of the SapoCycle Bubbles saving Lives initiative started.  Together with the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz they designed a process of soap recycling with machines completely adapted for people with disabilities. The recycling workshop was established in Wohnwerk, an institution in Basel that enables adults with disabilities a job opportunity.

The soap recycling program was replicated in France in 2018.

Why are our recycled soaps so unique?

We call our soaps are socially responsible recycled soaps. And this is what makes them so special.

On the one hand, the soaps that we collect from hotels in Switzerland and France are soaps that we saved from ending up in the landfills. We gathered more than 28 tons of discarded soaps since our start in 2015. With a controlled and traceable process we developed to repurpose the discarded hotel soaps, we saved about 57.7 tons of CO2. This explains our ecological pillar.

On the other hand, the adults that carefully repurpose the soaps are adults with disabilities. The fact of having a stable job in a stimulating ambience is very positive for their personal development. Not only that, they feel proud to be able to help people in less favorable situation than theirs. This social integrative aspect of our soap recycling program is a real added a value to our soaps. Our soaps have been repurposed by the hands of people with disabilities whose jobs make them socially integrated.

These are the two significant added values that our organization gives to discarded soaps. And this is why our socially responsible recycled soaps are unique.

In addition, with the 190.000 soaps we already distributed among people in need within Europe and refugee camps, children’s homes, schools around the world, we contributed to improve the hygiene situation of 48.000 families. With each bar of soap handed out, there is hope contained in it.

And if that wasn’t enough to say that our soaps are “virtuous”, we can add that our recycling process saves 90% of the CO2 that would be used to destroy them by incineration. A study conducted by the Department of Life Sciences at the University of Applied Sciences of North West Switzerland (FHNW) has highlighted this additional advantage.

This is why we call our soap recycling program a win-win-win initiative! Everybody is a beneficiary: On the first place. the hotels because by collecting the soaps and sending them to us, they give a step forward into sustainability path instead of throwing these away into landfills. With our marketing tools that we specially designed for them, the hotels have the possibility to show their guests _ that are more and more conscious to environmental/ sustainable topics_ their engagement to give their discarded soaps a second life.

On the second place there is our recycling ateliers. As above mentioned, the adults with disabilities who work in our two ateliers are continuously motivated by their supervisors. The fact of “making” a product from A to Z empowers them as a team job and improves their social abilities.

And last but not least, the winners are all those who receive our socially responsible recycled soaps. Our special soaps are a clear example of a virtuous circle.