How Recycled Soap Can Increase Economic Opportunities, Health Education, and Sanitation Access: One Man’s Story

In many developing countries, laundry or dishwashing powder act as a cheap substitute for hand-washing or bathing. Oftentimes, laundry powder contains dozens of foreign ingredients that are not safe to be applied directly on skin.

A woman living in the Santey village bathes her newborn son using laundry powder because she does not have access to soap suitable for body wash.

In 2015, Samir Lakhani witnessed this moment when he was traveling in Cambodia and visited this village. This image stuck with him until he returned to the city and went back to his hotel room. Upon entering his bathroom, he realized the housekeeper had thrown away his barely-touched bar of soap. He had an aha moment as he realized what he needed to do for that village mother and countless others like her: he needed to found an organization that would recycle discarded hotel soaps, sanitize them and deliver soap to communities in need.

Samir (middle) and some of the Eco-Soap Bank team

Eco-Soap Bank aims to employ economically disadvantaged women to recycle leftover hotel soap and redistribute it to those in need in an effort to reduce disease. Samir and his team share the belief that no child suffers because there is a world shortage in soap, but rather an inefficient system of soap waste by the hotel industry and a need to redirect the supply to communities who could benefit.

I had the privilege of visiting the Cambodia HQ when I was working for the Cambodian Community Dream Organization​ (CCDO) and see the magic happen as they process, sanitize, and assemble the recycled hotel soaps. Since working in Cambodia, Eco-Soap Bank and the CCDO have partnered to provide soap to CCDO’s beneficiary rural villages and schools outside of Siem Reap, and employing the women in these villages to sell recycled soap so they can make additional income.

Eco-Soap Bank has come a LONG way since 2018 when I was last in Cambodia.

Samir and the Eco-Soap Bank team’s latest initiative is Project EcoSoap, which expands what the organization is already doing by hiring an additional 45 women and adopting a ‘buy one, give 100’ model where people like you and me can purchase one recycled, zero waste soap bar and know that 100 bars of soap will be donated to the communities they serve.

The support from the global community has been overwhelming and the team had already raised more than 200% of their goal! The fundraiser continues until the end of the month on May 31, so don’t miss out on your chance to buy soap for good! Visit their Kickstarter campaign for more information and to support Project EcoSoap.

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