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Laguna Beach hotels to recycle all soaps -- a first in U.S.

November 6, 2011 |  6:02 am

HotelbarsoapsLaguna Beach welcomes more than 6 million visitors annually to its sandy shores. Now visitors who stay in the beachside city's 22 hotels and lodging establishments will be inadvertent participants in a citywide effort to recycle all of the soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners, lotions and bath gels that are left over after a night's stay.

Starting Monday, Laguna Beach becomes the first city in the nation to have all of its hotel properties with more than 20 rooms participate in Clean the World -- a Florida-based nonprofit that provides recycled hotel soaps and hygiene products to those in need. Montage Laguna Beach, Pacific Edge Hotel and Best Western Laguna Brisas are among the 18 participating hotels, along with four of the city's six bed and breakfasts, for a total of 1,229 rooms.

In an average year, with an estimated 75% occupancy rate, Laguna Beach hotels generate 336,000 bars of soap and a slightly lesser number of shampoo, conditioner, bath gel and lotion bottles, all of which were previously thrown in the trash. Working with Clean the World, those hygiene products will be reclaimed by the housekeeping staff and set aside in a separate receptacle to be shipped to a Las Vegas processing facility. The bars of soap are cleaned of hair and paper, sterilized, ground into pellets and pressed into new bars of soap that are distributed to non-governmental organizations in 45 countries that do not have ready access to soap.

The bottled amenities are likewise reclaimed. If they're full, the bottles' exteriors are sterilized and redistributed to homeless shelters and soup kitchens inside the U.S. If the bottles are 25% empty, the plastic is recycled or potentially upcycled for use in other products.

Founded in 2009, Clean the World has 1,200 partner hotels across the U.S. and Canada, 126 of which are in California, including the Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel in Anaheim. Since joining the Clean the World Hospitality Partnership Program in July, Disney's three Southern California resorts have collected 3,152 pounds of hotel soap and 2,212 pounds of bottled amenities such as shampoo.

Clean the World charges hotels 65 cents per room per month for the service. Of the 4.6 million hotel rooms in the U.S., Clean the World recycles the hygiene products for about 6% of them, said Shawn Seipler, who co-founded the nonprofit in 2009.

At the time, Seipler was a business executive and on the road four nights a week.

"I started to wonder what happened to the soap and bottled amenities when I was done with them. That led to realizing they were thrown away," said Seipler, who partnered with fellow business executive Paul Till to form Clean the World.

"We throw away 1 million bars of soap every day in this country," Seipler said. Every day in other parts of the world, he added, "9,000 kids die. That's where we put one plus one together and got three."

The main killers of children in less-developed parts of the world are pneumonia and diarrhea -- diseases that could be reduced as much as 60% with simple hand-washing, Seipler said. 

Over the past two years, Clean the World has prevented more than 1 million pounds of waste from being sent to landfills  and has distributed more than 9 million bars of soap, 2 million of which went to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake there and subsequent cholera outbreak. 

"At the Laguna Beach Visitors & Conference Bureau, our responsibility is to market Laguna Beach to the rest of the world," said bureau president Judy Bijlani. Bijlani has been working with Laguna Beach hotels since August, when Montage Laguna Beach general manager Todd Orlich approached her with the idea of implementing Clean the World citywide. "But part of that is also working on sustainable programs to make sure that all of the wonderful natural resources in Laguna Beach are here for generations to come. The Clean the World program is something we as a city could really get our arms around and show the hotels what sort of change they can make."


Can I Recycle ... ?

Sustainable Retreats

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Motel and hotel bar soaps. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times