How Waste Soap Can Help Save Lives

04 Nov 2016

How Waste Soap Can Help Save Lives

Soap Aid is a unique Australian charity founded in 2011 by Michael Matulick, CEO of Concept Amenities, a hotel amenities supply business operating for over 25 years.

Concerned about his industry’s impact on the environment, and interested in humanitarian work, Michael came up with a sustainable and productive solution to the rising mountain of waste soap generated by the accommodation sector.

“Soap Aid’s mission is to save children’s lives through improved hygiene whilst positively impacting the environment,” he says.  “This is made possible by our partnership with the accommodation industry, enabling Soap Aid to reprocess and deliver recycled soap to disadvantaged communities in Australia and overseas.

“Through our targeted education programs, we aim to achieve lifesaving and sustainable improvements in global hygiene practices.”

Soap Aid, thanks to the efforts of 60 passionate and dedicated volunteers, is already making a big impact.  The organisation has so far redirected 40-plus tonnes of hotel waste soap from overflowing landfill into bars of recycled soap.

“With the support of our hotel partners and Rotary International, Soap Aid has made close to 340,000 recycled soap bars for distribution to communities in need,” Michael says.

“Last year we sent our first container of recycled soap to India, which contained over 138,000 bars.  We are working with aid organisations in India and other countries, such as Cambodia, to have our soap reach communities desperate to prevent the spread of infectious and life-threatening diseases.”

Reports show 2.4 billion people across the world lack adequate sanitation and, as a direct result, more than 1.4 million children under five die each year from hygiene related diseases, diarrhea and pneumonia.  Many deaths are needless, able to be prevented through simple measures such as handwashing with soap.

At the same time, according to Clean Up Australia, we are the second highest producers of waste in the world, only beaten by the US.  Amazingly, each Australian contributes over 690kg to landfill each year.

Soap Aid’s ‘Hotel to Hands’ model, through its partnership with Rotary, collects, sorts and cleans waste soap and recycles it to produce hygienic bars that are delivered along with education on improved hygiene practices.

More than 250 hotels have joined the ‘Hotel to Hands’ community.  Currently Soap Aid arranges collections from hotels in the Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and surrounds, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga and Sydney areas.

“We are constantly working to expand our collection areas, however hotels based outside these locations are encouraged to join the community and organize their own returns to the Soap Aid depots in Sydney and Melbourne,” Michael explained.

In March this year, Soap Aid sent 50,000 soap bars to Fiji in partnership with Live & Learn, Care Australia and Virgin Australia to quickly support relief efforts after the devastating impact of Cyclone Winston.

Now Soap Aid is excited to be involved in a project closer to home.  Later this year, they will launch a project in Western Australia aiming to reduce the incidence of infectious diseases, particularly trachoma, which is a contagious eye infection that can cause blindness and is endemic in remote Aboriginal communities.

Soap Aid will be providing recycled soap to a target of 63 communities, aiming to reach 19,500 people.

To continue its mission and reach more disadvantaged communities, Soap Aid needs ongoing support and funding.  Accommodation operators wishing to join their ‘Hotel to Hands’ community can simply register online.  And you can also keep up with Soap Aid on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and Twitter.


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