Monday, October 12, 2009

Recycling soap for use in Uganda

Here is a great charity idea, bringing used soap to people in Africa. For those who live on less than a dollar a day, a bar of soap is a luxury and the money could be better spent on food. But it is the inability to stay clean and sterile that is one of the factors that keep many in poverty. Many diseases that could be prevented from using soap make many ill and further unable to provide for themselves.

A former Ugandan who makes his home in Atlanta has found a way to help his homeland. Derreck Kayongo recycles used soap bars from American hotels and sterilizes them for use by the poor in Uganda.

From this Associated Press article that we found at KOAT, writer Dionne Walker explains the soap recycling process.

Cleaning up with used soap sounds, well, dirty.

But Kayongo said soaps will be separated by hotel brand and gently washed to remove makeup and other surface dirt. Next, bars will go into a high-temperature oven where they will melt and transform into a soapy, sterile, slurry. Kayongo said the mixture will go into molds to harden and emerge as large bars of soap.

"All it needs is just cleaning and re-melting and remolding," he said.

Each day, in millions of American hotel rooms, the cleaning staff replaces soap and other toiletries.

Patrick Maher, a consultant to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, said hotels usually throw away used soap. But he said nonprofits have begun stepping up to recycle soap for charitable purposes.

"It's one of the new things this year," Maher said.

One such charity, Florida-based Clean the World, says it has collected about 17,000 pounds of used soap since February for distribution in impoverished countries worldwide.

For the Global Soap Project, Kayongo says he has gathered 10,000 pounds of used hotel soap from 60 hotels in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. Hotels collect lightly used bars which they place in bins. One of Kayongo's 10 volunteers takes the bars to a donated warehouse near Atlanta that he's using.

Kayongo's own family had once thrived off his father's business making soaps and running a printing press in Uganda. But Kayongo said they went from being members of the middle class to refugees, losing everything under the harsh rule of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.


natural soap maker said...

That sounds like a great idea

Anonymous said...

I admire the ingenuity and creativity that went into the idea, but I fear that it is not a great idea at all. First, this idea assumes that the problem with hygiene is lack of soap. In my experience, I think the problem not that soap is not available, but it is not used. Second, is it really more cost-effective to recycle soap in the US and ship it to Africa? The alternative is to make soap in Africa, which would stimulate the economy and reduce poverty. This idea is actually setting up Africa for more dependence on Western handouts. I submit that recycling the soap for use in the US is more effective. The profits could be invested in soap making done in Africa. What a difference that would make!