Fighting pollution by turning waste into currency

The Plastic Bank aims to stop plastic pollution by turning waste into currency. In an interview with the UN’s environment agency, founder and CEO David Katz explains that putting a value on plastic waste stops it from entering the ocean while also reducing poverty.

The Plastic Bank operates collection centres in Haiti and Philippines, where people can turn in plastic waste and receive cash or credit to an online account, which can then be used to purchase various goods and services, from insurance and phones to cooking fuel and stoves. The waste is then sold as a raw material to the manufacturing sector, closing the loop in the circular economy.

Plans are now underway to open locations in Brazil, Indonesia, Ethiopia and India. “We’re growing exponentially,” founder and CEO David Katz told UN Environment.

The organization’s strategy is twofold. First, by giving value to plastic and accepting it as a form of currency, it’s no longer litter but rather cash. “No one throws cash on the ground,” explained Katz. Second, the Plastic Bank doesn’t differ from the traditional recycling activity. What it is doing, in contrast, is cutting out the middleman and ensuring the poor stand to make the most.

According to Katz, the Plastic Bank stands out as the only organization that recognizes “the value in the 8.3 trillion kilos of plastic that’s ever been produced”. By taking that “8.3 kilos of plastic at roughly 50 cents per kilo, we’re unleashing a 4 trillion-dollar market opportunity for the world”. Katz estimates that well under 500 billion kilos of waste could alleviate all forms of poverty around the world.

The Plastic Bank has its own certified plastic called Social Plastic, and it is partnering with several international companies such as Marks & Spencer, Henkel and Shell to fund collection and recycling efforts.

The non-profit sees major demand for its social plastic ecosystem. It has even created an application so that anywhere in the world can create their own recycling infrastructure with just a collector, a redemption location, a collection location, a recycler and a courier.

“We are creating an ecosystem that will ignite a social plastic revolution, that unites and enrols humanity for local action that creates global impact,” said Katz.

Image credit: Paolo Margari via Flickr

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