David Katz, a keynote speaker at the upcoming marcus evans EuroPack Summit 2018, taking place in Switzerland, 3 - 4 September, discusses how Plastic Bank, a global network of micro recycling markets, can help people out of poverty, and what role product packaging can play. 

Companies have come to realise that their consumers are demanding a change, and unless they play a role in cleaning up the environment, they will lose business,” says David Katz, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Plastic Bank. He believes that using Social Plastic®, Plastic Bank’s innovative recycled material, is a way for companies to engage their workforce, shareholders and consumers. 

What is Plastic Bank? 

Plastic Bank is a global network of micro recycling markets that empowers disadvantaged communities to transcend poverty by cleaning the environment. It is an ecosystem that provides an opportunity for the world to collect and trade plastic waste as a currency. By enabling the exchange of plastic for money, items or blockchain-secured digital tokens, our unique model strengthens recycling ecosystems, stops the flow of plastic into the oceans, and helps underprivileged communities. We are now the largest chain of stores for the impoverished, where everything can be purchased using plastic garbage. This includes school tuition, cell phone minutes, WiFi access, medical insurance, cooking oil, fortified milk, fuel, and a variety of other necessities. People who cannot afford these items no longer see plastic as garbage. They look at it as an opportunity to end poverty in their family. There has been a paradigm shift in their minds: plastic is now too valuable to end up in landfills, incinerators, or waterways. 

What do packaging directors and manufacturers need to know about monetising plastic waste? What is the business value of using Social Plastic® in product packaging? 

Companies have come to realise that their consumers are demanding a change, and unless they play a role in cleaning up the environment, they will lose business. This gives consumers a way to participate in the change that they want to see. For the company, it is a brand activation opportunity; a chance to exhibit authenticity to the world. It is a good way to engage the workforce, shareholders and consumers. A way to ensure the supply of the materials they need is uninterrupted. What a threat it would be to a major bottler if people turned completely against plastic, for example. They could no longer sell their products. Companies must be seen as part of this change. 

Look at what is happening today with the drive away from straws and single-use plastic. It is originating from the consumer and companies have to follow their customers’ demands. 

What is possible with this “bitcoin for the earth”? 

We use a blockchain-based banking system which provides a safe way to transfer value. Especially in developing nations with high poverty rates, protection against fraud and corruption in any industry is paramount to its sustainability. Blockchain provides an answer to this dilemma by decentralising monetary power. In addition, the digitalisation of currency helps to globalise our ecosystem. You can take plastic waste to be weighed at one centre and have the value deposited into any account. Someone in Germany can transfer digital value into the solar lamp of an impoverished family in Haiti. Then, people can track the material within the supply chain, see where it is coming from, which lives were changed, how many children went to school as a result, and so on. They can see where the value is distributed and be able to connect with their consumers and shareholders who want to see that they are positively affecting people’s lives.