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This Week’s Pivoting Heroes: Clean the World Foundation

13 May, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The buzzword of the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t “quarantine.” And before you ask, it’s not any of the following: pandemic, vaccine, essential or even non-essential. It’s pivot, defined as the shift an organization can make quickly in order to fill a need in a current situation.

To date, we’ve seen many examples of the pivot movement, including sportswear companies that set aside typical production in order to make surgical masks, face shields and medical gowns.

There are plenty of others as well. But right now, here’s one everyone can get behind: Clean the World Foundation, a recycler of hotel soaps and bottled amenities, that has expanded upon its mission of providing soap to third-world countries, and made it a point to contribute soap and hygiene kits to areas hard-hit by COVID-19.

Under its newest plan, the organizations will be distributing 1.5 million bars of soap to support those lacking access to hygiene supplies across the United States to combat the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases travelling the globe.

"This season, the Coronavirus and other illnesses are rapidly spreading through communities and families," says Sam Stephens, Executive Director of Clean the World Foundation. "Everyone knows that one of the easiest and most important ways to combat the spread of these diseases is by washing your hands. “Handwashing with soap is the most effective way to fight COVID-19, so it is crucial that we get supplies out to relief organizations as quickly as possible.”

Members of the sports tourism industry first became acquainted with Clean The World during the NASC (now Sports ETA Symposium) in 2011 and 2012. The program operates by arrangement with hotels, which have housekeeping staff retrieve bars of used soap as well as containers of bathroom amenities, such as shampoo and body wash, left behind by hotel guests. All items collected are shipped to a Clean the World facility. The soap is ground, sanitized, melted and reprocessed into a new bar of soap. The plastic bathroom bottles are sent to recycling or an energy-from-waste facility. 

Unfortunately, organizers note, the COVID-19 crisis has greatly affected the hospitality industry, so the soap coming into Clean the World has decreased significantly. And while it may still be some time until tourism booms again, the fact that destinations are increasingly relaxing quarantine restrictions means that handwashing, shown to be highly effective at eradicating the virus, is going to be more important than ever.

Clean the World has sent soap to international destinations including Mexico, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Malaysia where infections are often rampant because of a lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene (known as WASH in United Nations parlance), and where the leading cause of death for children under age five is still hygiene-related illnesses like diarrhea and pneumonia.

COVID-19, and the subsequent shortage of many hygiene supplies from local stores, has exacerbated problems in the U.S. and Clean the World has been supplying soap and personal hygiene packages (containing basic necessities such as a bar of soap, shampoo, toothpaste and other items) to local communities as well. As of last week, 12,000 bars of soap were headed to Queens Community House located in Forest Hills, New York, and also to New Orleans-based Orleans Public Defenders; both organizations were to be responsible for distributing them to people in need within their communities. Another shipment of 60,000 bars of soap was headed to Feed the Children in Lavergne, Tennessee and Oklahoma City, and 240,000 bars were also sent to City Harvest in New York and to Forgotten Harvest in Oak Park, Michigan.

Full information about Clean The World is available at this link.

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