For the last couple of decades or so, we are all used to seeing cards in hotels informing us of ecological conservation and protecting the environment programme and do we want to reuse bed linens and towels. This has been a huge success in saving resources in various forms and of course conserving clean water. But what about bath products? Is there a thing called recycled soaps?
Who would use these recycled soaps?
The bath products are a different ball game though. It is often that the hotel replenishes the stock daily. The guests generally use the soaps once before it is replenished during daily cleaning and the used soaps taken away as waste. In some hotels they don’t take away the used soaps. There, the guests have the option! Throw away or use it a couple of more times. Some of us also generally pick up a few fresh soaps, especially the perfumed ones, for house-helps back home. 😊
One question that often bothered us was while the hotels take so much pains to conserve clean water, what could they possibly be doing with the discarded soaps.
Then we came across Stefan Phang of Diversey and the phenomenal work he was doing in the field of soap recycling as part of “Soap for Hope” programme. To cut the long story short, after few aborted efforts, we eventually got to meet him in Mumbai and that too in a workshop manufacturing these Soaps for Hopes.
You might wonder what’s the purpose of all this and who is going to use recycled soaps?
Health and Hygiene
Health and hygiene are completely interlinked. One of the important factors of hygiene is keeping oneself clean. As per UNICEF, millions of children are afflicted with diseases linked to hygiene and many of them succumb to their diseases.
They also note “Good hand-washing practices have also been shown to reduce the incidence of other diseases, notably pneumonia, trachoma, scabies, skin and eye infections and diarrhea-related diseases like cholera and dysentery. The promotion of hand-washing with soap is also a key strategy for controlling the spread of Avian Influenza (bird flu).”
The soap plays an important role. Among the economically weaker sections, even in a city like Mumbai, it has been found that use of soap is quite absent before and after eating, toilets, cooking, playing etc. It could result in an unhealthy household.
Soaps to the rescue
Diversey, as part of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), have developed multi-step processes that include collection of discarded soaps from the hotels to re-manufacture and packaging them for further distribution. Stefan Phang, head of CSR at Diversey, has implemented this process in 22 countries in the world, partnering with 1000s of hotels for supplies and many NGOs and communities to implement their visions which are, Help hotels reduce waste, provide livelihood and the most important of them all, save lives!
We suggest you to watch this video. It would give you a thorough background about the Soap for Hope project and what it is for Stefan.
Diversey has partnered with Doctors for you in India, a medical NGO, started by a bunch of like-minded doctors, under the stewardship of Dr Ravikant Singh. It was set up with the twin aim to help the local community where they provide free medical facilities and medicines and as a disaster response unit when medical aid is required in disaster areas.
Recycled Soaps – the Process
Diversey in India has a network of hotels who ensure that all the discarded soaps are saved and not thrown out with the other garbage. Diversey’s logistics partner collects them from each of the hotels all over India and delivers them to the processing centres. Stefan said, that almost 1 tonne cakes of soaps per month are collected from 140 hotels and equally distributed to processing centres in Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai.
The process steps in brief
- a) Top layer of the soaps is completely scraped to get rid of dirt, fibres and other impurities using potato peeler manually inspecting them to make sure that they are perfectly clean.
b) It is then dipped in a sanitizing solution for a few minutes and then dried.
c) The soaps are then grated using a vegetable grater into tiny slivers of soap.
d) At this point herbal ingredients such as neem or aloe vera gel or zests of lemon could be mixed with grated soap.
e) The grated soap is then pressed into 100gms cakes using a specially designed manual hydraulic cold press.
f) The cakes are then cut into two before packing them in individual paper.
All the steps above are completely manual and simple. It was not long before Nisha tried her hand and quickly churned out a couple of soaps, which we got to keep as souvenirs 😊
The three staff members churn out about 300 bars of 50gms soap each day. While it may not sound much but it sure is enough for the community that’s being serviced by Doctors for You in Govandi, Mumbai.
Recycled soap – how it helps
Often, we see doctors use the soaps as an incentive to get the residents to bring their children for a thorough check up. At that time the staff members also educate them about the benefits of using a soap and how it helps avoid diseases.
We too went out with the Doctors and nurses to nearby settlements to educate the parents and distribute soaps to the children and cajoled the women folks to take their children for health check at the centre. It was good to know that a few children could read English and helped their parents understand what Stefan wanted to convey.
Stefan travels to various countries and helps people to set up their “home factories” which could give the economically weaker people a livelihood.
Kudos, Stefan! Keep it up. It is a great privilege knowing you. May your tribe grow.
If you are interested in contacting the team for any collaboration, kindly write a mail to Stefan Phang at [email protected] . His team will get in touch with you.
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