Soap Central

Nonprofit Clean the World brings philanthropic mission to Las Vegas

Las Vegas hotels aren’t just cleaning up, they’re helping others do the same. Beginning in June, the nonprofit Clean the World will set up shop here and work with area hotels and nonprofit groups, collecting used soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion, sterilizing the reusable portions and sending them to countries in need and domestic shelters.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity for the hoteliers in Las Vegas who are interested in their community, interested in helping those in need,” executive director Shawn Seipler says.

Seipler, who founded Clean the World in Orlando, Fla., along with managing director Paul Till, came up with the idea of soap recycling after traveling extensively for business in his former position as vice president of sales for an e-commerce company. He fell into the same routine we all do: He’d check into a hotel, use the soap a couple of times, use a tiny amount of the shampoo and then check out, leaving the rest to go to waste.

Seipler saw an opportunity to not only stop that waste, but to really make a difference. He and Till began reading about the thousands of children who die around the world every day as a result of pneumonia and diarrhea. They also read about doctors going into villages to help fight disease, armed with little more than soap. He wondered, “What if we were to send soap we don’t need to those who need it most?”

That’s when the light bulb went off, and Clean the World began. Since its beginning in 2009, Clean the World has expanded into more than 200 hotels in 25 states, recycling and redistributing 400 tons (5 million bars) of soap to more than 50 countries, including Haiti, Zimbabwe, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Swaziland, Mali, Mongolia, Uganda, Honduras and Romania. In addition, Clean the World recycles the plastic bottles used for shampoo, conditioner and lotion.

Seipler hopes that a hotel-dense city such as Las Vegas will help further his mission. Plans are in the works to build a recycling center here. The company also has signed a contract with Harrah’s to have a presence in four Las Vegas hotel-casinos. In coming weeks, Clean the World will set up bins within the hotels and train the housekeeping staff on how to handle the used items.

“Harrah’s Entertainment is delighted to be the first casino company to work together with Clean the World,” says Jessica Rosman, a contract manager for Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. “The soap left behind in our hotel rooms will be reprocessed and distributed to underprivileged, developing countries.” Clean the World also is planning to work with the Las Vegas Rescue Mission. Seipler says that his goal is to give jobs at the soap-recycling center to men and women who are in recovery from drug, alcohol and gambling addictions. Robert Brunner, executive director for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, says that Clean the World is a great environmental and humanitarian opportunity for his organization, as well as for Las Vegas.

“Not only are they doing a good service as far as utilizing spent soaps and shampoos, but they’re also utilizing the work skills and labor skills of people who are looking to re-enter the workforce,” Brunner says. Everyone comes out a little cleaner in the end.

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