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A Second Life for Used Soaps

Using complimentary amenities is one of the best parts of staying at a hotel. But have you ever spared a thought for the waste you’ve created during your stay? Do you know where did all those partially used shampoo and soap bars go?  


Fortunately, some organisations work hard to prevent those used items from entering the landfills. Back in 2011, Mr David Bishop, Principal Lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Economics, came up with the idea to start Soap Cycling when looking for internship and leadership opportunities for his students. Why Soap? The answer might surprise you: Washing hands with soap can help prevent diseases like diarrhoea that cause the death of a massive number of children under age 5 each year.


Soap Cycling was officially introduced to the public in Hong Kong in 2012. Since then, the non-profit organisation has collaborated with hotels to collect and process lightly-used soaps and liquid amenities, and sends them to the hands of those who lack access to basic sanitation facilities.  


In its initial years of establishment, the organisation partnered with UNICEF Hong Kong Committee to organise soap making workshops and soap deliveries to underprivileged families in Hong Kong.


With the team’s continuous effort and support from volunteers and students, Soap Cycling has gradually expanded its reach and impact. In 2015-16, Mr Bishop and his team have brought nearly 500,000 bars of soap to disadvantaged communities in Southeast Asia. 


As the initiative grows, Soap Cycling has become a thought leader in the field, informing interested actors about the benefits and impact of recycling soap. Today, the organisation has operations in HK, Shenzhen and Singapore, with requests to set up in Manila, New Zealand, Thailand, Macau and Cambodia. 


Apart from benefiting the disadvantaged, the initiative also enables HKU students to contribute to the local and global communities, and most important of all, demonstrates how a small act can make a big impact.