In collaboration with NOT FOR YOUR DISTINCTION eV we are launching the project THE SOCIAL SOAP BOX and are thus addressing two of the most pressing problems of our time: plastic pollution and mass migration. You can read in our interview what is behind the initiative and how everyone can become part of it.
Your project combines sustainability with humanitarian solutions. How did the project idea come about?
Plastic pollution and mass migration are two of the most pressing issues of our time. The refugee camp on the Greek island of Samos is one of the five hotspots in the Aegean. Due to its proximity to the Turkish border, it is one of the first points of contact for many refugees with the EU. The local community is overwhelmed, leading to dire conditions in the refugee camp and environmental problems across the island. To counteract this situation, we have launched the Precious Plastic Samos project. In a workshop with an open work area and with the help of workshops, we design valuable and functional products made of recycled plastic - a free material - together with our participants for their life situations, based on the idea of Empowerment through Creation.
We see this approach as helping people to help themselves in order to strengthen the self-confidence of people in need and to show simple solutions to everyday problems and at the same time to improve hygienic conditions. For us, sustainable and humanitarian solutions go hand in hand, as they both influence each other to a large extent.
The developments of the Corona crisis forced us to pause our Precious Plastic Samos project in spring 2020 and to return to Germany temporarily. Pandemics like Covid-19 pose a challenge to our society and the simplest hygiene, such as washing hands, is taking on a new meaning.
Washing hands with soap is one of the most important protective measures to prevent infection and transmission of the virus. What is taken for granted by many people is an almost insurmountable challenge in other places.
To counteract this problem, we developed the idea for the soap box together with Stop the water while using me. A product that should help draw more attention to the local situation and encourage us as consumers to do something good.
How exactly does the project work?
We make a limited edition of the cans, Stop the water while using me sells them and the customer donates soaps to refugees in Greece. By using only Stop the water while using me plastic to craft, we address two distinct themes with the intention of giving the product a deeper meaning. The topics that are important to us - humanitarian crisis situations and environmental awareness - are thus combined in one product.
How and where are the soap boxes made?
The soap boxes are made from the plastic waste of used plastic packaging by Stop the water while using me using low-tech injection molding processes. Crushed plastic is melted with the help of a machine and injected into a mold made of aluminium. For this we used machines from the environmental and sustainability movement Precious Plastic, which make it possible to recycle plastic locally without large investments.
As part of the exhibition “Re:Art feat. Precious Plastic" in the Overbeck Society in Lübeck, which is dedicated to this topic, we were able to produce over 100 soap boxes for sale. Both the refill canisters and the pump containers are made of HDPE, which is ideal for further processing using injection molding. Due to the material composition, each soap box is unique.
The boxes are characterized by a particularly functional design. Can you explain to us how they work?
The sustainability of a product begins with the design of the form. Instead of using multiple products to fulfill different purposes, we tried to integrate them into one object. So the soap box is not only intended as a storage place for transporting soaps, but also offers the possibility of a shelf. For this purpose, the can is designed as a soap holder with an integrated drainage system when lying flat. This offers both the possibility to store the soap in a dry place and to pull a cord through the drain so that it can be hung up on the go.
Why did you choose Samos as a location? What is the current situation on site, also in relation to Covid-19?
The refugee camp on Samos is a place in Europe that you would not expect to find here. More than 5000 people live here in a very small space, in miserable living conditions and without adequate hygiene, which can quickly become fatal in a time like this. These places are not unique in Europe and Samos is just one example of many. The special thing about Samos and why we chose this place for our work is the direct connection of the camp to the capital of the island. This leads to a strong blending of different cultures, which can be seen as a point of both tension and opportunity. Currently, however, the camp is in a strict lockdown because several COVID-19 cases have broken out and the Greek government does not want to take any alternative measures. This forces thousands of people to spend their day inside their run-down tents. A situation like on Lesvos is foreseeable.
How many soaps are donated in total? And what happens to the soaps on site?
Together with the STW partners, 7000 soaps were sent to Samos in July and distributed to the refugees on site by our distribution partner Refugee4Refugees. With the sale of each soap box, more soaps are handed out to the refugees in the Greek reception camps.
With the donated soaps we hope to enable basic hygiene for the refugees in Greece.
Why did you choose us as a project partner?
In order to implement the project, we were looking for a partner within the cosmetics industry that matched our ideas of sustainability. Stop the water while using me not only represents these ideas, but also convinced us with their GoodWaterProjects.
What projects are you planning in the future?
Not for your distinction is a non-profit design studio that we set up during our design studies to research creative solutions in the humanitarian sector and to be able to realize sustainable projects in the future.
We are currently working on another project with refugees within Greece in the area of empowerment through creation with the same approaches to sustainability in humanitarian aid. Furthermore, once the situation on Samos has stabilized, we hope to be able to continue with our original plans there and design many more products together.