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Super-soap recycler

105. Sebastian Huempfer

An Oxford PhD student has recycled half a tonne of soap from local hotels to make 500 new bars for charity.

Sebastian Huempfer is the founder of Clean Sl8, a social enterprise that recycles lightly used soap from local hotels in Oxford and gives them to local charities, homeless shelters and disaster relief agencies. Clean Sl8 produces up to 500 new bars using 50kg of soap per month. Some of the soap collected from the hotels is also ground down and resold with the profits reinvested back into the enterprise.

Sebastian was inspired to start Clean Sl8 when he saw a similar project operating in Hong Kong whilst travelling. He realised that nothing like this existed in the UK, and set about creating the social enterprise last year. Clean Sl8 is currently the only large scale soap recycling business in Europe, and seven local hotels in Oxford donate soap to the enterprise. These hotels have 500 rooms and Sebastian estimates that if Clean Sl8 recycles all surplus soap, over the next year they will be able to create 11,000 bars of soap.

The programme also benefits the environment – landfill waste is reduced by half a tonne a year through Clean Sl8, no raw materials are needed and due to recycling the product locally it has a low carbon energy footprint.

Clean Sl8 has also just started working with the Ley Community, an organisation that helps ex-offenders and homeless people overcome substance abuse and support them to get a job. Ley Community will be working with Clean Sl8 to collect and recycle the soap, with support from Sebastian and his team. Clean Sl8 is also working on expanding the number of hotels and locations for soap recycling over the next year.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Sebastian’s idea is simple but brilliant and is making a real difference to charities and his local community.

“I’m impressed that having already produced 500 new bars of soap for disaster relief agencies and charities such as UNICEF, Sebastian now plans to expand Clean Sl8 further. He thoroughly deserves this Point of Light award.”

Sebastian said:

“I am pleased to have won a Point of Light award for my work with Clean Sl8. The volunteers that I work with come from all over the UK, Europe and beyond to study at Oxford University, and we are all glad to be able to contribute towards the city’s civic life and to be recognised by the Prime Minister for the work that we do.”

Nicola Blackwood MP said:

“Oxford is a great launchpad for social enterprises and Sebastian is an inspiring winner of the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award. Along with his team at Clean Sl8, he has built a social enterprise that not only helps the hotel industry tackle widespread environmental waste but also offers ex-offenders and addicts from the Ley Community vital work opportunities. As a patron of Ley Community, I am personally grateful to Sebastian for playing his part in giving residents a second chance.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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