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Salvation in salvage: CleanConscience

For the past five years most have us have known CleanConscience as the charity set up by Gwen Powell which collects, processes and repackages unused hotel toiletries and, with partner charities, distributes them to people in need. It means a huge volume doesn’t end up in landfill or being incinerated.

But with COVID causing havoc for London hotels that CleanConscience had partnered with, Powell had to think quickly and seek alternative income streams. The answer was hotel clearances, and redistribution of other end-of-life, surplus or redundant items hotels no longer need, or have space to store.

Poignantly, Powell is now seen as something of a ‘matchmaker’ in the charitable world and UK hotel sector. Even staff accepting their jobs were going have helped to gather up items in clearances she’s handled.

Powell says: “It is an added positive outcome from these two projects that the hotel staff agreed that working towards salvaging the contents and knowing the uncountable lives that will be touched by this, has given them closure and helped them to deal with being made redundant in these difficult times.”

A quick break for some of the Cambridge team

Following on from her first clearance early in 2020, Powell, an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management, was asked in November to partner with Tower Demolition on two projects in quick succession. AJ Capital Partners are set to release their first hotels in the UK, under the Graduate Hotel branding. The Cambridge Hotel on the River Cam (Cambridge) and The Randolph Hotel (Oxford) were first in line; but before redevelopment a soft strip and clearance was needed in a project managed by CleanConscience, on behalf of overall project managers, McBains.

Powell reckons the two-week project at the 138-room Cambridge Hotel saved 142 tonnes of CO2e, avoided 32.5 tonnes of waste and released assets to charity worth over £300,000. Four Cambridge charities benefitted and also the formerly homeless from Cambridge now residing in their own starter pods / flats, and two others with charity shops. Furniture, single mattresses with bed bases and even mini bar fridges ended up with new homes.

In Oxford the 151-room hotel produced even higher returns and even managed to save two jobs.

Once saturation in Cambridge was reached, and due to COVID preventing CleanConscience from interacting with the Oxford charities, Powell decided to look further afield. Viktorija, the project manager she appointed for the tasks, was born in Lithuania and knew these items would go far in supporting charities in her home region.

Five lorries full of bed bases, mattresses, sofas, sofa beds, chairs, tables, desks, lamps, duvets, pillows, curtains, toilets, shower screens, sinks and other bathroom fittings made their way to Lithuania, to benefit orphanages, a children’s day centre, a family crisis centre and care home for the elderly.

Powell says: “I must thank the CleanConscience team for pulling together at such short notice; especially our assistant project manager, Aleks, and his assistant, Darek, and a team of packers that helped with the loading of the lorries on this side. Another huge thank you to Antanas, on the Lithuanian side, for arranging storage at short notice, unpacking trucks with a team of volunteers from the village, and distributing from the arrival of the first truck.”

Well done, chaps: a mountain of bedding bagged up at The Randolph

On both projects Viktorija and a hotel team salvaged everything with a resource value, and thanks must go to Emilio, Mariangela, Allesandra and Kasia, Chris Douglas, Steve and Andy at Cambridge; and William, Vaidas, Hannan, Evan, Ian, Philip Lewis, Lee and Emilio at Oxford.

CleanConscience supports 31 UK charities, another in Sierra Leone, and six in Lithuania.

Hotel staff agreed that working towards salvaging the contents and knowing the uncountable lives that will be touched by this, has given them closure and helped them to deal with being made redundant in these difficult times