Single-use plastic. It’s a really big problem. We hear about it in the news. We read about it. We see it in the documentaries we watch on Sunday evenings, a belly full of roast dinner in tow. Sometimes, it feels like we’re being bombarded by a never-ending sequence of our oceans. All clogged up with plastic waste. And it’s easy to feel a little bit helpless about the whole thing. Like it’s too big. Too unfixable. Like no-one is really doing anything about it.
Luckily, someone is doing something about it. And our friends at the Plastic Bank are one of those someones. Based in Canada, they’re an incredible social enterprise who are on a mission to stop ocean-bound plastic by monetising waste collection and transforming lives. For good. Here’s 3 things you should know about them.
They tackle poverty and plastic waste
According to David Katz, founder and CEO of the Plastic Bank, cleaning the ocean is the very last thing we need to do when it comes to addressing the plastic problem. And that’s despite the fact that 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into our seas every year. So, what gives?
“80% of ocean plastic is coming from those countries that have extreme poverty,” he explains. “And if you live in the grips of poverty concerned, always, about food or shelter or a sense of security [then] recycling is beyond your realm of imagination.”
David Katz (Founder & CEO – Plastic Bank)
And that’s exactly why he created the Plastic Bank. Describing it as the “largest store for the ultra-poor”, Katz and his team have set up 165 plastic-waste collection centres, or ‘banks’, in Indonesia, the Philippines and Haiti with over 4,300 active plastic waste collectors.
People living in the poorest communities are incentivised to collect and drop off plastic before it leaks into the ocean. Cutting the problem off at its source. And as well as earning a fair living wage, people can exchange collected plastic for cash or other useful things. Like healthcare. Or school tuition. Or whatever it is that their community in particular needs.
They see plastic as a resource, not waste
Sure, single-use plastic’s got a bad rep. And quite rightly so. But the Plastic Bank are much more interested in the good that plastic can do.
They turn all recyclable plastic into something called Social Plastic®. This clever stuff is defined as “ethically-recovered” material produced through the collection and recycling of ocean-bound waste. And it has a positive impact on both the environment and emerging economies.
All Social Plastic® is processed in-country to ensure that as much value as possible is kept in the local community. The Plastic Bank also carefully scrutinises all partners to ensure that labour, safety, and environmental standards are being met.
As well as directly supporting 14 of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, Social Plastic® can then be bought by companies from all around the world to make shiny new products, from shampoo bottles to umbrellas. Clever, right?
They’re part of Bagboard’s first global mission
At Bagboard, we’re really proud to have partnered with the Plastic Bank for our first global mission. Our aim? To remove 1 billion single-use plastic bags from the environment. It’s what we’re calling our #bagbillion goal.
An here’s how it works. Each time you pick up an eco-friendly smart bag from a local London store and link it to our app, we make a contribution to the Plastic Bank in your name. Each donation means that they remove the equivalent of 100 single-use plastic bags from entering our oceans. A real, tangible difference. Just like that.
But that’s not all. Because when you reuse your smart bag around the city, log its journey and interact with the ad campaigns printed on the front and back, there’s potential to remove 100’s, if not 1000’s more.
And by working together, we can all grow the momentum. We can all stop ocean plastic.
As Katz puts it, ‘Someone needs to do something about ocean plastic. This is the something. You are the someone.’