DID YOU KNOW?
- Every day hotels worldwide discard millions of bars of soap.
- Every year 1.7 million children die worldwide from disease and infection. Half a million of these children could still be alive if they simply had soap to wash their hands.
- The plastic used for hotel toiletries is manufactured from expensive recyclable Polyethylene terephthalate or High-density polyethylene. Unfortunately, empty or half-full bottles cannot currently be recycled and end up in landfill or incinerated.
The facts above are what pushed Gwen Powell to establish the not-for-profit CleanConscience in July 2015, having successfully founded an on-site food waste recycling company in 2009, kompost ltd.
WHY DID YOU SET UP CLEANCONSCIENCE?
“It was a challenge by a client of kompost ltd, my other start-up, that brought to my attention the scale of the soap and toiletry ‘waste’ in the world, and that here in the UK there was no infrastructure in place to enable hotels to take part in a recycling programme.” Gwen Powell – Founder and Project Manager.
Gwen and Dennis Geersten (Production Manager) started running trials from their one bedroom apartment in May 2014. It took six months of negotiations with the Environment Agency to obtain a special environment waste exemption, to make CleanConscience the first and only organisation in the UK to treat the half-used soap and toiletries discarded by the hospitality sector, legally.
It took another six months to obtain registered charity status in March 2015. As this type of activity had never been carried out in the UK, a 27-page standard operating procedure had to be written and submitted for the insurance company to find an underwriter.
Before the charity was set up, Gwen had to carry out 20 months of research to ensure these products were safe to use.
HOW DOES CLEANCONSCIENCE WORK?
CleanConscience offers the UK hotel industry a chance to reduce its environmental impact and save lives.
The hotels who work with CleanConscience including one of the first, The Ritz London receive several crates from CleanConscience, which they have to fill up separately with soaps and toiletries. The soaps have to be free from laundry fluff and not been disposed in a waste bin. Every weekend, toiletries are collected from hotels by CleanConscience and taken to Thimble Farm Business Park in Holyport, where the charity is based.
The products are sorted through, recycled and repackaged into care kits and the soap is sterilised, transformed into noodles and then remoulded into new soap. These are then given away free to the homeless and families in need.
CleanConscience works with a charity called Sundara who create employment opportunities for women on the margin of society. These women are turning half-used bars of soap into new bars to be distributed free of charge to children in the slums of Mumbai.
The toiletries produced can last up to 24 months but have to be sent to the laboratory every few months to ensure they are acceptable to use. Unfortunately, CleanConscience now need to carry out these tests more frequently, which means they need more funding.
“I love challenges and for me this project ticked a few of boxes; preventing valuable resources from being landfilled or incinerated, making hygiene products available to those who need it most, creating opportunities for individuals on the margins of society and partnering with other organisations with the same values.” Gwen Powell
Scottish Rail donated 106 pallets of toiletry bags with toiletries inside them to CleanConscience. These bags are then filled with extra toiletries such as the ones from The Ritz London and are distributed to countries such as Pakistan, Asia and Syria.
Toiletry bottles, which are more than three quarters full, are cleaned and become part of this CareKit Project. These care kits are very useful for the homeless and anyone in need especially as they are handy for people to clean up and look presentable before an interview.
CleanConscience works with mainly disabled volunteers, who come to the charity a few times a week and find the work very therapeutic especially the volunteers who have autism. Currently 12 volunteer sessions are ran each week, but they would like to expand to 70 to cope with the growth.
Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people. CleanConscience pitched alongside three other charities on Thursday 28th January 2016. They only had six minutes to pitch their charity. Collectively they raised £30,000 with £10,000 of it donated to CleanConscience.
With this money, the charity has now expanded into the unit next door, and the £10,000 will pay its rent on both units for one year.
The Ritz London does not just provide CleanConscience with soap and toiletries but we donated our Christmas decorations to them, which they gave to charities and homeless shelters to help create a special Christmas environment for them. The Ritz also donated their hotel trollies to the charity to help them move their products from one unit to the other. Some of The Ritz team spent a few hours with the CleanConscience team finding out more about the charity and helped pack some of the care bags. We plan to continue the partnership we have with CleanConscience.
“Soap has a value in developing countries. It is so powerful but in this country, we just throw it away” Gwen Powell
The Ritz London recognises that its day to day operations in supplying goods and services to its clients has an impact on the environment in a number of ways and we wish to eliminate or minimise the potentially harmful effects of such activities wherever and whenever possible. As a Leading Hotel of The World, we fully understand our responsibility to minimise our impact on the environment and are committed to this at all levels of the business.
The 5 star Ritz London hotel is part of the Considerate Hoteliers Association and has been awarded Green Tourism Gold 2016.
WHAT VISION DO YOU HAVE FOR CLEANCONSCIENCE FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
“The CleanConscience concept is easily replicable and I see CleanConscience satellite hubs dotted around the UK and Europe; wherever there is a high density of hotels, there could be a CleanC Hub. Our attention is currently focussed on Scotland and Ireland, and then of course a couple more here in England; Bristol, Manchester or Birmingham, and Southampton are all in the pipeline.” Gwen Powell.
ARE YOU DOING YOUR BIT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Please help us to recycle our soap by not placing it in the waste bin after your stay at The Ritz London.