A team of students at Brandon University is trying to make hotels a little bit more environmentally friendly by upcycling leftover soap and shampoo.
ReNu Hygienics, which was created through the Enactus Brandon University program, has a goal of reducing how much waste and useable product ends up in landfills.
Enactus is focused on identifying problems in the community and finding entrepreneurial solutions to those problems. Parker Easter, one of the founders of ReNu Hygienics and president of Enactus Brandon, said he and his team saw a problem with some people in Brandon not being able to afford to proper soap or hygiene products to keep clean with.
ReNu collects the used bars of soap and tiny shampoo bottles from hotels and creates new hygiene products from them. Currently, the company is partnered with Super 8 Motel, Redwood Motor Inn and Clarion Hotel & Suites to accept their leftovers.
Easter said they all go through a cleaning process first before being melted and remoulded into new bars with 3D-printed moulds.
"We want to be able to provide them with a product that anybody’s going to want to use," he said.
There is also an ongoing issue around the world with hotels throwing away large amounts of unused soap, which gets regularly restocked in guests’ rooms.
"We needed to find a way to clean and upcycle and improve these products so whoever’s hands they get into, they’re going to be happy and they’re going to be comfortable with the product that they’re receiving."
ReNu Hygienics is currently donating upcycled bars of soap to Samaritan House Ministries.
Easter said 50 million pounds of unused hotel soap ends up in Canadian dumps each year. Brandon alone has 26 hotels, so thousands of pounds end up in the city’s landfills.
The idea for the business started coming together while Easter was on a trip with Enactus Brandon.
"I had had a bunch of hygiene products thrown out at the airport because they were too big, they didn’t meet regulations and it was at that moment I started to think ‘There must be a lot of waste here.’"
He said he then noticed a further problem at his hotel, where each day the soaps in the room were replaced with new ones.
ReNu Hygienics and the other Enactus Brandon team members recently travelled to Calgary to compete against other universities’ Enactus clubs. Brandon’s team medalled in three out of four categories based on the businesses’ social impact. Easter said it was a huge team effort.
"All four presenting teams did a phenomenal job at regionals and to stand up on that stage and represent Brandon three times in one night was an incredible feeling."
The next step for the business is to become financially sustainable and start generating revenue, Easter said. The plan is to start selling the soap publicly in May 2019 while continuing to look for hotels to partner with.
Easter said one person is currently working for the business to make bars of soap, but he wants to grow for the long-term.
The team is also looking at upcycling other leftovers into new hygiene products.
"We’re always interested in establishing hotel partners, there are a lot of hotels in Brandon that still currently simply don’t have a waste-free environment when it comes to their hygiene products so we're open to establishing those, we’re looking for it."
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