Earth Issues

Students donate new and recycled soap

 | April 28, 2010

You’ve probably thought about it while staying at a hotel. Where do all those slightly used soap bars go? In Sun Peaks, they get recycled into new soap bars to be shipped off to Haiti.
With the help of their teacher, a group of South Kamloops Secondary students have figured out a way to recycle used soaps.

After Deborah Taylor saw Clean the World’s soap recycling efforts on TV, the South Kamloops Secondary teacher thought this was an excellent recycling idea for her students. Clean The World is a non-profit organization that recycles used hotel soaps and shampoos and distributes them to those in need.

“I thought, ‘That’s fairly easy. I can do that’,” the English teacher said. “The first stage of the campaign was an appeal to the students and their families. The students brought brand new bars of soap from home. At the same time, we launched the appeal to the hotels (to save up and donate their used soap bars).”

Grade 12 student Raquel Bouwmeester collects used soap from the hotels in Sun Peaks. She said each week she can fill a laundry basket of used soap from Sun Peaks hotels alone. A Kamloops hotel owner that employs two of Bouwmeester’s schoolmates is also helping the cause by collecting soap bars from Kamloops hotels.

Lucia Meier, a front desk employee at the Sun Peaks Lodge, thinks it’s wonderful that they can donate the soap to recycling instead of discarding them. “It would be great if everybody (at Sun Peaks) participated,” said Meier.

Meier said they can easily fill a 10 litre bucket of used soap at the hotel each week. Before Bouwmeester started collecting them, these would usually go to the dump for sanitary reasons. But with a few simple steps, they can be sterilized and reused.

First, the soap is ground into fine powder with a meat grinder. Then, it’s added to boiling water until it resembles the consistency of mashed potatoes. The batch is poured into moulds and left to solidify for up to two weeks. The final step is wrapping the soap before they’re shipped overseas. The students earn service hours for graduation by volunteering their time in this project.

“We’ve taken samples out and we’ve had our biology teacher test (the soap). It turns out to have a negligible amount of bacteria on it,” Taylor explained. “According to him, there’s more bacteria on (any person) right now than there is on our soap.”

The availability of soap has the potential to save lives. Diarrhea and respiratory diseases are two potentially fatal diseases that are very easy to prevent with proper hygiene. Each year, diarrhea kills almost two million children aged five and younger the world over. Proper handwashing with soap and water is an easy way to lower this statistic.

The school has collected 2,000 brand new community donated soap bars. In addition, the students made about 3,000 recycled bars from the used soap.

“When you see the waste, it really opens your eyes to what we could be doing,” Taylor added.

The soap will be delivered through the Abbotsford Vineyard Church’s Heart to Heart Ministries. The shipment will reach Grand Goave, Haiti at the end of May.

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