The programme’s objective is three-fold: to save lives by promoting a cleaner and healthier environment through proper hand-washing with soap; to provide a means of livelihood for local communities through learning a new skill; and to help hotels reduce waste by recycling used or discarded soap. Once used soap is collected from the hotels, it is transported to local communities and the local people re-process the soap using a specially customized cold-press method that requires no running water or electricity. The reconstituted soap bars are then distributed to communities that have limited access to basic hygiene amenities.
A typical 400-room hotel generates 3.5 metric tonnes of solid soap waste per year,” said Stefan Phang, Sealed Air’s Director of Sustainability and CSR. “Hand-washing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal and respiratory diseases in developing regions. Soap for Hope addresses waste reduction and hygiene enhancement at the same time, while also generating livelihoods for local communities.”
Soap for Hope was first launched in Cambodia in 2013. Since then, it has been implemented in multiple Asian countries and expanded beyond the region. Soap for Hope is now in 17 cities across 11 countries including Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, China, United Arab Emirates, Kenya and South Africa. Currently, 120 hotels are supporting the programme and more than 160,000 beneficiaries gain free access to soap every year.
The Accor Hotels Southern Thailand have been gathering left over soap from both Krabi and Khao Lak as well as Phuket in preparation for the official launch in Phuket on March 5. A total of nine hotels are supporting this venture and will continue to supply the soap on a monthly basis. The equipment and expertise for making the reconstituted soap are supplied by Sealed Air. The local people to make and distribute the soap have been brought together by The Phuket Community Foundation and the Credit Union branch in Rassada.
After the opening ceremony, a demonstration of the soap making process intrigued the audience and enticed Deputy Governor Chokdee Amornwat to have a go at making a bar of soap. The process involves several steps: - 1) scraping and cleaning the used bars of soap, 2) chopping it into small cubes, 3) weighing 150 grammes for the small press or 500g for the larger press, 4) dipping the cubes into the sanitising solution in a strainer, 5) mixing the cubes with natural products such as lime zest, galangal, butterfly pea flower for colour, 6) placing the mix into the cold-press machine. The pressed soap is then extracted from the mould of the press and dried. The larger soap bars are then cut into smaller bars for packaging.
Some of the soap will be bought back by the hotels for souvenirs for their guests. A portion of the soap will be given out to communities and schools and some will be sold at local markets. The housewives occupation group came to the launch at the Credit Union branch to be trained in the soap-making process and the equipment will be kept at the bank for the ladies to make the soap on a regular basis. They will be able to make a small income from the soap to help support their families. The income for the Community Foundation will go to support the various community projects of the foundation.