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Behind the Scenes of Clean the World’s Recycling Center in Dominican Republic

The facility, located in Punta Cana, is one of the hubs for Clean the World’s Hospitality Recycling Program, which reduces soap and bottled amenity waste.

Hotels across the world produce a significant amount of waste, including soap and bottled amenity waste, but Clean the World, a global social enterprise and a leader in global health dedicated to WASH (water, sanitization and hygiene) and global sustainability, is working hand-in-hand with hotels, recycling partners and others to reduce that waste.

With locations in North America, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean, Clean the World collects, recycles and distributes soap to individuals in need via its Hospitality Recycling Program. At its Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, location, which was recently visited by Waste360 Editorial Director Mallory Szczepanski, Clean the World runs the program with its partner Ecoservices, a Dominican Republic-based environmental consulting company.

“Since 2010, Ecoservices has been the premier environmental sustainability company in the Dominican Republic providing sustainable solutions primarily in the tourism sector. During that time, we have partnered with many organizations locally, regionally and now internationally with Clean the World,” said Terry Wheat, co-founder and director of operations at Ecoservices, in a statement. “It is our great pleasure to be associated with such a strong partner whose presence is affecting the lives of literally millions across the planet through their efforts.”

Through the partnership, Clean the World and Ecoservices collect, sort, sanitize and prepare soap for distribution to locals in need. First, the soap and bottled amenities are collected from the hotels and brought to a facility that houses both Ecoservices and Clean the World. Then, the soap is ground down using a liquid solution to remove any contaminants. From there, the soap is ground down again and sent to the soap manufacturing line, where it's made into new bars of soap that are placed in boxes containing 100 bars each. Those boxes are then sent to organizations to be placed in the hands of those in need throughout Hispaniola.

Since 2010, the duo has distributed more than 2,789,063 bars of soap to families in communities in Hispaniola.

The bottled amenitites, depending on their content levels, are placed in hygeine kits along with washcloths, razors and other items to be distributed to those in need. What cannot be placed in hygeine kits is recycled or sent to waste-to-energy facilities. 

According to Dirk Roskam, chief financial officer and executive vice president of Clean the World, Clean the World is in the process of finalizing a partnership with a plastic recycler based in Amsterdam that is working on a new program to drain the liquids in bottled amenities and then use that recycled plastic to create new products like picnic tables for schools.

“We have been very involved in the Hispaniola area from both a support and hygiene distribution standpoint since our inception, so there was a natural symmetry there to garner the support of local recyclers and hotels and get them to participate in our Hospitality Recycling Program,” says Roskam. “While we have made progress over the years and there’s a significant amount of interest in the program, we know it will take time to get more hotels on board and that it’s not a quick and easy process.”

According to Roskam, the Ecoservices team is a large part of the program’s expansion, as they see the benefits from both an environmental and humanitarian standpoint and can serve as a guide when it comes to connecting with the local culture and getting communities and hotels on board with recycling and reducing waste.

“We have a full suite of services that we outline to interested and participating hotels, which includes things like housekeeper training and impact statements,” says Roskam. “This allows the hotels and their staff to choose an option that best suits them. On average, the hotels pay about 75 cents of the U.S. dollar per room per month, or about $1,800 a year, to participate in the program. That cost includes all the training materials, education materials, collection of materials and more.”

The first hotel in the Dominican Republic to participate in Clean the World’s Hospitality Recycling program is Karisma Hotels & Resorts, which includes two properties: Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts and Sensatori Resort Punta Cana.

Within the first three months of participating in the program, the hotels diverted 225 pounds of waste, contributing to the production of more than 800 newly recycled bars of soap.

“We believe that the tourism industry is the right answer for the sustainable development of many communities and destinations, and it requires a serious and long-lasting commitment from our company, in order to make sustainability a strategic pillar of our operation,” said David A. Ortegón-Martínez, sustainability director at Karisma Hotels & Resorts, in a statement. “By working with Clean the World, we are making a positive impact on the health conditions of vulnerable communities in the Dominican Republic, a very important step for the sustainable development of this destination.”

In an effort to get more hotels to participate in the program and to get more people to recycle and recycle properly, Ecoservices and Clean the World are educating locals on how waste can be a resource.

“On average, every tourist who comes to Dominican Republic generates about 7.5 pounds of trash,” says Wheat. “That is a lot of waste when you think about how many people visit each year, and while we are encouraging sustainability and waste reduction, we are also promoting the message of waste as a resource. In addition to the efforts we're doing with Clean the World, Ecoservices is in the process of drafting up a plan for waste-to-energy, which we feel could be a real opportunity for using waste as a resource.”

Flip through this gallery to view a selection of photos from the Punta Cana recycling operations center.

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