Derreck Kayongo and his Atlanta-based Global Soap Project have discovered a gold mine in discarded soap. Kayongo has found that millions of bars of used soap are being discarded each year in North America and has turned this knowledge into an opportunity to impact the disease in impoverished nations.
Kayongo is from Uganda and he noticed growing up that disease followed poor hygiene and a lack of having soap to wash your hands. People there found that the cost for soap to be prohibitive compared to how much they earned. If a person from Uganda made $1.00, he would certainly buy food and medicine before he spent 25 cents on a bar of soap.
Kayongo came to realize his idea of recycling soap when he got to America. In America, he stayed in a hotel and the noticed that new soaps were placed in his room every day. Thinking that there was a cost involved, he tried to return the soaps. He was astonished to find that in America, it was customary to receive a brand new bar of soap daily in the hotels and that the used bars were discarded. He shared the experience with his Dad, a former soap maker back in Uganda.
Kayongo’s Dad told him that Americans, unlike his native people, could afford to throw it away. Kayongo’s mind began to work with the possibilities in front of him. His plan was to take the soap, recycle it into new soap and send it home to all of the people who cannot afford to purchase soap in Uganda.
Collecting soap for impoverished countries is Kayongo’s way to combat childhood death in the world. Each year, more than 2 million children die from disease related to cleansing their hands completely. The issue was not because the soap was not available, it was simple economics. When you fall sick because you didn’t wash your hands with soap, it’s more costly to go to the hospital to get treatment. People ended up dying of disease. Kayongo’s donation of soap will save countless lives.
Three hundred hotels have joined the effort and 100 tons of soap has been generated. The process is simple; volunteers collect the soap and ship it to Atlanta. In Atlanta, other volunteers clean, process and package the bars. The processing is also simple in nature. The bars are sanitized, heated to a high temperature, chilled and cut into final bars. The bars are released only when the laboratory has tested the soaps for pyrogens and once cleared, shipped to distribution points across the globe. The bars are sanitized first, then heated at very high temperatures, chilled and cut into final bars. To date, the Global Soap Project has provided more than 100,000 bars of soap for communities in nine countries.