Did you ever stop to wonder what happens to those half-used little bottles of toiletries and soap bars you leave behind in a hotel room?
Well, thanks to the efforts of Holyport-based charity Clean Conscience, many of them are recycled and used to help disadvantaged people in the UK and abroad.
And through its work the charity also helps people with learning disabilities and protects the environment, explained founder Gwen Powell when she was the guest speaker of Maidenhead Rotary Club this week.
Clean Conscience is the only organisation in the UK certified to help the hospitality industry recycle some of the 70 million bars of soap and 200 million travel-sized toiletries that go to waste from hotels every year.
The charity, which has been going for six years, works with 40 four and five-star hotels that between them have about 12,000 rooms.
Upon arrival at Clean Conscience, the toiletries are sterilised and sorted by type and brand. Volunteers with learning disabilities then drain the half-used toiletries, like body wash and shampoo, into bigger bottles.
“The value our volunteers see from this is so fulfilling and satisfying. They understand they are making a difference, it builds confidence and helps give them purpose,” said Gwen.
The repurposed toiletries are then distributed to those who need them most in the UK through food banks, baby banks and homeless charities.
They are also sent abroad where access to hygiene can prevent child deaths, while some bars of soap are turned into soap powder and sent to a women’s project in Sierra Leone which sells them to generate income.
Clean Conscience supports 37 charities in the UK, two in Africa and seven orphanages and day care centres in Lithuania. Toiletries are also sent to refugee camps in Europe and further afield.
To eliminate waste, containers filled with liquid soap sent abroad are reused as water carriers once they are empty, while in the UK the original toiletry bottles are either recycled or burned in an incinerator equipped with air scrubbers to produce clean power.
The Covid-19 pandemic saw many hotels close due to a lack of international travel, interrupting the usual work of Clean Conscience. But the charity was able to turn its attention to recycling the contents of five-star hotels being refurbished.
“I have never said no to anything,” said Gwen. “Coffee trays were turned into blackboards for pupils to write on in Sierra Leone, curtains were repurposed as day beds for use also in Africa, and we sent six lorries to Lithuania. We think we improved the lives of 20,000 people and it also helped us raise enough money to keep going for 16 months.”
For more information about Clean Conscience see: https://cleanconscience.org.uk/