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Organizations: Global Soap Project

 

When Derreck Kayongo’s family was displaced by the tyrannical regime of Idi Amin, he dwelled in refugee camps with limited or no access to soap and water.

“Seven million children have died since 2009 due to disease that could have been prevented with proper soap-and-water hygiene,” he says, “and 1.4 million deaths can be prevented each year just by hand-washing with soap.”

One possible solution seemed obvious from his travels as an Atlanta-based humanitarian aid worker. He noticed the high number of soaps that hotels and motels throw away, often after just one use – an estimated 2.6 million bars are discarded daily.

So he developed the Global Soap Project, which recycles the bars and then redistributes them, through NGOs and relief agencies, to vulnerable communities throughout the developing world, including Haiti, Ghana, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Kayongo’s native Uganda. The new republic of South Sudan recently received 2.5 tons of soap.

“The hotels mail us the soaps, and we have a machine that peels the outer layers and ‘cleans’ them,” explains Kayongo, who has recruited more than 700 hotels for the initiative, including the Hilton Worldwide chain. “Then the soaps are lab-tested for pathogens before we deliver them to beneficiaries in compromised environments.”

The nonprofit has grown from a small operation in Kayongo’s basement to a Norcross warehouse with a staff of eight, who plan to recycle at least one million bars this year.

The Global Soap Project also promotes sustainability by diverting tons of soap from local landfills.

“Recycling soap is a very simple concept that provides enormous benefits for everyone involved,” says Kayongo, who was a finalist for CNN’s “Hero of the Year” Award.

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