Cutting down on waste, supporting better hygiene and providing a sense of purpose to the day – this charity ticks all the right boxes
I was on one of my frequent work trips and gleefully FaceTiming with a friend, showing off my plush surroundings. As I entered the bathroom (vast shower, thick towels, freestanding tub) she exclaimed: ‘Gah! I’m so jealous! You must have the best toiletry collection!’
It made me pause for thought.
I’ve never been one to scoop up the miniatures from a hotel room – but then, I’m not one to faff around with a clear plastic bag full of 100ml bottles, either, so using the hotel toiletries during the course of a stay is a no-brainer.
Mindful of packaging waste, I’ve tried, in recent years, to stick with the bars of soap rather than the shower gel, but my stays are never long enough to reduce these down to the last sliver.
What on earth happens to all of those half-used bottles and misshapen lumps of soap?
The truth, as set out by Clean Conscience founder and project director Gwen Powell, is that the mid-to-high range sector of the UK hospitality industry alone wastes around 70 million bars of soap and 200 million travel-sized bottles each year – with most of this being sent to landfill or incinerated. At the same time, around 1.7 million children die globally each year from causes linked to lack of hygiene; it’s estimated that access to soap could reduce this figure by 60%.
Registered as a charity in March 2015, Clean Conscience collects soap-based products – shampoos, gels and body wash – which are sorted by literacy-competent volunteers. These are then decanted by learning-disabled volunteers into larger bottles, which are distributed to people in need.
Unopened products, on the other hand, are retained in their bottles and made up into ‘CareKits,’ which are then shipped to homeless shelters, humanitarian organisations or charity recipients.
As for the bars of soap? These are sterilised by hand before being made into soap powder and soap noodles, which are then sent to a women’s development project in Sierra Leone, enabling local women to sell the products and helping them to support themselves and their families.
Compared to the innocuous sight of that cluster of miniatures in a hotel bathroom, the benefit of what Clean Conscience does is staggering.
As well as the reduction of waste and repurposing of toiletries to those who need them, there’s the sense of purpose and community from which their volunteers benefit – not to mention the fact that, at present, 18 tonnes of waste are diverted from landfill each year, a figure that the charity looks to increase to 100 tonnes, with empty miniatures recycled at an EFW (energy from waste) facility.
Hotel partners range from luxury digs like London’s The Ritz and The Dorchester, to chains like Novotel and Accor Hotels.
Isn’t it time that more businesses in the hospitality industry cleaned up their act?