Plastic Bank Harnesses Blockchain to Rid Oceans of Plastic Garbage

Canadian startup Plastic Bank is betting on blockchain technology to solve the problem of plastic waste polluting the seas and oceans of the world.

Several companies use or plan to use blockchain to fix the problem of plastic garbage in the seas and oceans. The scale of the issue is exemplified by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a mountain of some 87,000 tons of plastic waste in the ocean territory between Hawaii and California. However, it is only part of the eight million tons of plastic debris that get dumped into the oceans year after year. Vancouver-based startup Plastic Bank is one of the companies trying to use the distributed ledger technology (DLT) to keep the oceans clean.

Co-founder and chief digital strategist Shaun Frankson told Bloomberg Environment:

“Our goal is to be the largest recycling company without assets. We want to be the Airbnb of recycling.”

He revealed that around 80% of plastic garbage comes from developing countries with poor waste management culture and infrastructure.

Plastic Bank has created a blockchain-based app that rewards people with digital tokens in exchange for collected plastic bottles and allows the conversion of these tokens to goods or cash. The waste, referred to as “social plastic,” is then sold to companies worldwide. The application was developed in collaboration with US tech giant IBM, which is making a great contribution to the growth of the blockchain market.

Currently, Plastic Bank is operating in Haiti, Brazil, and the Philippines and wants to set up shop in Indonesia by the end of this year. The startup aims to be more than just an intermediary – its goal is to encourage people to participate and be active.

“Instead of making maybe $1 a day, they can now make $5 or $7. It’s a collector-first mentality, not supply chain first,” Frankson noted.

“It makes a big difference in the quality of people’s lives, the communities where they live and keeps a lot of plastic out of the ocean,” he added.

The blockchain-based approach is especially great for people who do not have bank accounts, which is typically the situation in developing countries. They can now keep their income securely within the application and spend it as they wish.

Meanwhile, more and more companies are interested in contributing to a cleaner environment and selling products manufactured from recycled materials. For example, sportswear maker Adidas sold over one million shoes made from ocean plastic in 2017.