National

NPO aims to recycle hotel soap to help poor nations

by Mami Maruko

Staff Writer

A nonprofit organization plans to collect unused soap from upscale Tokyo hotels and recycle it into bars for use in the developing world, and is currently seeking funds to buy the equipment it needs.

On Feb. 15, the Global Soap Project, a United States-based nonprofit organization, established its first foreign branch in Tokyo’s Koto Ward and plans in March to begin recycling small amounts of soap in a trial focusing on India and Bangladesh.

A fundraising effort has so far missed its target, but the group eventually aims to be able to obtain the equipment it needs to supply bars to needy recipients across Asia, where the work could save up to 100,000 lives every year, says branch founder Nobumitsu Hayashi.

The group will collect discarded soap from high-class hotels such as the Palace Hotel Tokyo in Chiyoda Ward and from soap manufacturers and reprocess it into fresh bars for dispatch to target countries free of charge.

The World Health Organization says about 10 million people die every year in unsanitary living conditions, often from preventable food poisoning.

“These people can be saved if they have a habit of washing their hands with soap,” said Hayashi, who runs an aromatherapy and cosmetics shop and heads the Handmade Soap Association, a research organization.

He said the recycling project involves providing not only soap, but also education on the importance of sanitation.

Hayashi says the trial will involve supplying soap to around 30,000 people in India and Bangladesh.

“We chose India and Bangladesh as our first two destinations as we felt they need our assistance the most, because we believe they are the most poverty-stricken parts of Asia,” Hayashi said. The group will also consider including Pakistan in the future, he said.

The Global Soap Project was established in Atlanta in 2009 by Derreck Kayongo, a Ugandan immigrant who had lived as a refugee. After working for several human rights groups, Kayongo founded the U.S. soap operation, which focuses mainly on Africa and South America.

Hayashi visited Kayongo in the U.S. in July last year, and after agreeing to a tie-up, began preparing for the Japanese version.

Earlier this month, Kayongo came to Tokyo to open the Japanese branch, the NPO’s first outside the U.S.

“When I found out about Global Soap Project, I sent a message to Kayongo on Facebook, and we immediately got connected,” said Hayashi.

The group launched a crowdfunding campaign to buy a second-hand soap-recycling machine for ¥800,000. By the deadline on Feb. 6, however, it had raised less than half the amount.

“We will do more fundraising to buy the machine and to cover transportation costs. We want to make the project sustainable, so that we can continue to deliver soap to the people who need it most,” said Hayashi.

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