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  • Writer's pictureTc Li

Bottled Amenities: Soap Cycling

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

What have already been done to tackle the problem that is single-use bottled amenities?

California, USA

California is taking legislative action to help enact a ban on plastic bottled amenities. Assembly member Ash Kalra of San Jose claims that “in California alone, hotels use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bottles every year”. He is putting forward a bill that would ban bottled amenities in nearly 10,000 hotels across the state. He claimed that the ban would not only reduce waste but also help the environment by reducing their production. Indeed, last year Santa Cruz County became the first jurisdiction in California to ban the small bottles.

Soap Cycling, Hong Kong

Soap Cycling is a Hong-Kong based charity that works with local hotels to recycle soap and send it to communities that lack basic sanitation. While it works mostly with recycling bar soap, it has programs designed to up-cycle and prevent the waste of bottled amenities.

Last year, Soap Cycling collected 8,473 kg of discarded bottled amenities - a volume equivalent to seven Hong Kong taxi cabs full of plastic and chemical waste. They take the amenities and donate them to local charities. They have recently piloted a scheme with local charity Youth With A Mission to help the sanitation needs of underprivileged people in Hong Kong. Soap Cycling directly distributes 1-liter bottles of up-cycled shampoo and bath gel; they charge people a small deposit for the bottles and then allow them to refill them free of charge during subsequent distributions.

This not only helps reduce single-use plastics, freeing up space in landfills, but also prevents the wastage of bottled amenities. Furthermore, it benefits those who need it the most. Those on low incomes in Hong Kong’s poorest districts can save between HK$100-250 per month.

How does this relate to the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015, the global community has resolved to achieve safe water, sanitation and good hygiene for all people by 2030. Access to safe water and sanitation are human rights and this is one of the reasons the UN has made them a key priority. Clean water and sanitation are currently #6 of the 17 goals.

Programs that tackle these issues are known as WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). WASH can improve health, life expectancy, gender equality, and many other key issues associated with international development.

As preferences have changed, liquid amenities have become ever more popular among consumers and ever more profitable for companies.

However liquid soap presents no real advantages - and in fact presents both cost and environmental issues.

To combat the issues posed by bottled amenities there are many different routes they can take, such as recycling or switching to larger, fixed-wall bottles. Hotels are the main contributor of bottled amenities; thus it is key they are part of the solution.


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