With a plan to clean up litter, reduce marine debris, and help poor people, David Katz, a self-confessed ‘beach bum' and co-founder of the Plastic Bank, has begun monetising plastic waste in Haiti and is seeking the next locale for his social enterprise.
The Vancouver, British Columbia-based organisation has a business model that starts with turning discarded plastic into currency – cash, goods or services – for those who pick it up from beaches, canals or streets and take it to a collection centre for recycling.
The Plastic Bank then pays the centre above-market rates for the recyclables — some of which are being ground into flake and injection moulded into containers at Plascon Plastics in Delta, British Columbia, for Lush brand cosmetics.
Also based in Vancouver, Lush has a green policy to protect people, animals and the planet in the production of its makeup and toiletries.
After a 2014 pilot programme in Peru, the Plastic Bank's first real, wide-encompassing loop has come full circle. Lush gets ethically sourced sustainable packaging.
The recycling centre in Haiti gets “price buoyancy” and an increased plastics volume. The Haitian who collected the items gets cooking fuel, Internet access or mobile phone minutes. And a poverty-stricken pocket of the world upcycles plastic that could make its way to the ocean.
Katz and co-founder Shaun Frankson have called their recycled feedstock “social plastic” and use social media to create demand for it.
The Facebook page 'Social Plastic' has more than a million followers, while Twitter users publicly ask major corporations to buy it and to do their part to reduce poverty and plastic waste.
Katz said there was an element of putting the cart before the horse when it came to addressing the marine waste issue: “There are too many people who want to go and clean the ocean,” he said.
“I think what we need to do is make sure the plastic doesn't get there to begin with. You have to turn off the tap first.”
This is an edited version of a story that appears on the website of PRW's sister publication, Plastics News