Best Western Is Latest to Partner with Soap Recycler

Clean the World Reaches 10 Million Bars

Clean the World collects soap, remanufactures it and distributes it to homeless shelters in the U.S. and missions overseas.

Best Western International has partnered with Clean the World to recycle hotel soap and bottled amenities and provide poor folks around the world with hygiene care. Clean the World is a non-profit that collects used soap products from hotels, remanufactures them and distributes them to U.S. and Canadian homeless shelters as well as missions in 45 countries.

Now Best Western members have the option of participating in what amounts to a mega soap drive. The company’s member hotels will be joining a movement that already includes 1,400 hotel partners representing 300,000 hotel rooms in 50 states, 10 provinces, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Best Western test launched the program at the company’s International Convention in Orlando in November 2011. “Our members embraced the concept and we moved forward with an endorsement,” says Pricilla Nesbitt, director of supply and design services. “Our official launch will be during our district meetings in the spring of 2012.”

Thousands of poor people around the world, including this girl in Guatemala, are beneficiaries of the Clean the World initiative.

The program fits into the company’s green initiative which requires every North American property to have a green program. This could be anything from using recycled paper and installing low-flow shower heads to full participation with national or international eco-labeling programs.

“We were impressed by the mission of Clean the World to save lives with soap and to protect the planet by diverting hotel waste,” says Richard Bennett, vice president supply and design services. “Clean the World’s goals are compatible with our corporate emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility, and we hope our guests will feel better about themselves for choosing to stay at a Best Western property that has the potential to improve health and hygiene habits around the world.”

At this point Best Western has added 22 properties in the United States and 5 in Canada for a total of 2,054 rooms.

Clean the World started in a Minneapolis hotel room about four years ago. “I was vice president of sales and marketing for an ecommerce company,” says Shawn Seipler, CEO and co-founder. “I was on the road four nights a week. One day in a hotel room I wondered what happens to this soap and little bottle of shampoo when I’m done with it.”

So, he called the manager and learned that it gets thrown away. He called 15 hotels in different cities. Same answer.

Soon he found a way to sterilize and reprocess the soap. The final product was destined for poor areas of the world. He explains: “Each day 9,000 children around the world die from diseases that can be prevented by washing with soap. Clean the World has a mission to put soap in the hands of people who need it most to improve hygiene and sanitation conditions and to lessen the impact of disease.”

The remanufactured soap is produced in a variety of colors and scents.

Mission in place, the company incorporated in February 2009. In three years they’ve distributed more than 10 million bars of soap to children and families and, thus, prevented 700 tons from reaching a landfill.

“Our hospitality partners have done a tremendous job,” he says, noting that the company has corporate agreements with Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Caesars Entertainment, The Walt Disney World Resorts, Mandarin Oriental, and Joie de Vivre Hotels among others. “It’s been a great collaboration within the industry.”

Seipler describes the collection process as a Netflix model. Housekeepers sort used soap and bottled amenities into green and blue bins. When the bins are full, they’re sent to one of Clean the World’s four recycling centers in North America. And, fresh bins are sent out. Eighty to 100 bins go in and out every day.

Using a proprietary method, soap is melted, filtered and sterilized. It’s then hardened into larger, roughly 3-ounce bars. “They look marbled. They have different colors and scents,” says Seipler. “We had them at a Best Western conference. People wanted to put them in their hotels because they’re beautiful bars.”

Recycling bottled amenities presents its own challenges. For now, the company sterilizes bottles, and puts them into hygiene kits destined for domestic women’s and homeless shelters.

The collection and redistribution program requires a financial commitment from hotels. “There’s a nominal charge that includes bins, shipping, training programs,” says Seipler. Marketing materials -- for example, tent cards for rooms – are available to communicate participation to guests.

Net? “It’s about 65 cents per room, per month,” he says.

Hotels that don’t want to make an ongoing commitment can participate on a temporary basis. For example, meeting planners may require environmental commitments to get an event. A one-time collection is possible.

Clean the World has worked with corporations in different ways. Companies like Disney mandate soap collection and recycling at its properties. Meanwhile, franchise and membership organizations such as Best Western make participation voluntary.

“Our goal is to make this a standard in the hospitality industry,” says Seipler.

Clean the World is just one soap recycling company. The Global Soap Project also collects, remanufactures and distributes soap. HotelRED in Madison, WI, sends its soap to the Atlanta-based company.

Housekeepers at the 43-room boutique hotel collect both facial and regular cleaning bars in canvas bags on their carts. These are stored milk crates in the housekeeping area until they dry out. When enough are collected the hotel pays for shipping to The Global Soap project.

HotelRED General Manager Jason Ilstrup is a former Peace Corp volunteer. “I saw first hand what the lack of soap can do. How a simple item can save lives,” he says. “They have low access to soap because it’s expensive. I’ve seen women assisting with births without washing their hands. Soap can have a huge affect.”

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