Every day the hotel industry tosses out minimally used bars and bottles of soap that end up wastefully filling landfills. In developing countries, however, soap is a luxury that is frequently inaccessible and unaffordable. With the help of the Sundara organization, recycled soap for developing countries has been made useful. By collecting thrown out soap and sanitizing it, redistribution is carried out to impoverished communities that suffer from illness due to lack of proper hygienic care.
For the “bottom billion” of the world who live under one dollar a day, funds are prioritized toward food and water with no money left over to buy sanitary goods. In Uganda, for example, the cost of soap falls between 20 and 50 cents, forcing people to forego this “most basic preventable healthcare”. It is because of poverty that people within these communities that cannot afford soap are made vulnerable to disease and sickness, often leading to death.
The living conditions for these individuals are typically a slum-like environment with inefficient trash collection and health care. Environments such as this create a breeding ground for diseases caused by lack of proper hygienic care. The CDC reports that 1.8 million children die annually due to diarrhea and pneumonia, both of which can be prevented with regular hand washing. By providing recycled soap for developing countries, preventable diseases such as these can be reduced.
The Sundara organization has recognized the need for soap and a purpose for recycling it. Collectively they have created a program that collects thrown out hotel soap and refurbishes them so they are clean and safely reusable. In addition to providing necessary soap products, they work toward empowering individuals of impoverished communities to become hygiene ambassadors within their own community. By equipping these individuals with basic hygiene education, communities receive further health education and women, specifically, are given employment by collectively recycling soap and educating others.
As a result of recycling soap, death and disease are prevented, communities are empowered, waste is saved and employment opportunities are provided. Since Sundara’s implementation of recycling soap, 45,600 kg of wasted soap has been salvaged, 132,000 bars of soap have been made, 3,000 hygienic care lessons have been taught, 20,000 lives, 16,000 children and 61 schools have benefited.
Efforts have been focused within India, Uganda and Myanmar. In Mumbai, India, three women have received proper training to recycle soap and 26 women have been implemented as hygiene ambassadors. Together, these women help repurpose and deliver soap to medical centers and vulnerable communities such as the Kalwa slums. Similarly, Uganda has been able to employ victims of domestic violence and Myanmar distributes recycled soap to orphanages, juvenile detention centers and communities affected by leprosy.
Soap is the fundamental necessity for maintaining proper hygiene, though many communities lack the accessibility to such products. By helping expand the message for the importance of recycled soap for developing countries, a healthy and hopeful future for vulnerable communities stricken with preventable diseases could be greatly supported.
– Amy Williams