India's first soap recycling program

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Last BB post on soap that I can recall was about how great not using it is!

Edit: I think it’s the difference between needing soap to wash hands (India) and not using soap as an all over your body in the shower type thing (i.e. the awesomeness).

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Yes. I wonder if this thread about a third world problem will turn into one about first world problems…


somewhere in India there is a new Huck Finn lighting out because he can’t stand the Widow’s civilizing him.


Filter water through wood ash, mix with some sort of fat or oil.

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Teaching solar disinfection of water or the local making of inexpensive filtration will do more than soap.
The greatest vector is unsafe water. Habituation to hand washing before eating and after elimination as well as food washing. Soap really does help, but chlorine bleach is more useful overall, but not as useful as universal sufficient access to safe potable municipal water for drinking and washing.
This is a good program but we have the resources to feed and provide water for the whole world.
The capitalist class looses money every year by leaving people to rot in filthy poverty.


Five step process:

  1. Hotel aggregares used soap
  2. Sundara employees collect that used soap from hotels
  3. Soap is sorted and cleaned of debris
  4. Soap is shaved down and cleaned with a chemical solution
  5. Soap is packaged and distributed alongside hygiene education

Waste soap kept from landfills: 1001 Kg
Bars of soap made: 8400
Lives impacted: 6000

My skepticism: Would it possibly be more efficient to make new bars of soap? They’re putting a lot of effort into these used bars of hotel soap.

What happens when the child uses up her shaved-down bar of hotel soap? How does she apply her new soap-based hygiene education?


Sure. Assuming you have fat or oil to spare that you aren’t eating or using for household jobs or light or…


This is a classic example of a do-nothing feel-good charity. The hotels do little but let the poor collect their discards and they feel like heroes. On Amazon you can get 12,000 soaps for $1,300, which could be distributed by the women instead of putting them to needless effort. I’ll withhold full judgement until after the inevitable self-congratulatory TED talk, though.


The first soap was made from the ashes of heroes.

It’s like one of those obsessively thrifty “Dear Heloise” columns from the 1960s.

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This has been going on in other countries for awhile, though I have no idea how effective it ultimately is.

And assuming you have extra water. That’s also rather frequently in rather short supply in India.

I found this article that talks in a little more detail about Sundara and its founder Erin Zaikis. The web is an echo chamber of uncritical information about this organization.

It seems like Sundara could be a good thing. There’s a lot to appreciate about their operation. I think my remaining concern is how long they can continue operating with a steady source of revenue. It doesn’t seem like they can be donor-funded indefinitely.

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