Shawn Seipler is on a mission to save lives with soap.
It began about seven years ago as a tiny operation in a single-car garage in Orlando, Fla., where a few friends and family members used meat grinders, potato peelers and cookers to recycle used soap into fresh bars.
The not-for-profit initiative called Clean the World now has industrial recycling facilities in Las Vegas, Orlando and Hong Kong. And it announced this month that it's partnering with the similar Global Soap organization.
The combined group now collects used soap from more than 4,000 hotels, and says it has delivered 25 million bars to 99 countries, as well as homeless shelters in the U.S.
A frequent traveler as a technology company employee, Seipler, CEO of Clean the World, had a thought one night at a Minneapolis hotel. “I picked up the phone and called the front desk and asked them what happens to the bar of soap when I'm done using it,” he told the Associated Press. “They said they just threw it away.”
Thus began his mission to help save lives with soap and even half-used bottled amenities like shampoo.
“It's a huge problem,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville.
Not all countries have readily available hygiene products. Schaffner recalled visiting a hospital in the Middle East where patients had to provide their own soap or go without.
The collected soap is shredded, run through machines that remove any residual bacteria and then pressed into new bars and packaged for delivery.
“A lot of people are surprised to find out that one of the most effective ways to prevent many deaths is actually just hand-washing with soap,” Global Soap director Sam Stephens said.