July 30, 2013

Tackling Plastic Pollution and Poverty

Plastic products are ubiquitous. They are in our homes, at work and unfortunately make their way into marine and coastal habitats. Plastic Bank has a new twist on an old concept that might just help: a wide-scale recycling program where people can trade in plastics for household items, tools or loans. 

Noticing that impoverished areas often go hand in hand with high litter levels and low regulations, the people at Plastic Bank have developed a self-sustaining business model that they say, “empowers people to harvest plastics as a currency they can exchange for tools, household items and parts.” This is an amazing variation of the usual 5 cent refund for a soda bottle. 

Plastic Bank refers to the litter as “social plastics” and hopes that this idea could revolutionize the way people think about plastic waste. Rather than leaving it on the beach, the goal is that using it as a currency would encourage many more people to pick it up, saving the ocean and other habitats from thousands of pounds of refuse each year. 

Once turned in, the plastic would undergo a transformation using 3-D printer technology. This on-the-spot repurposing is an interesting alternative to other recycling methods that put questionable amounts of toxins into the air. The same plastic carton that someone turns in could be a chair tomorrow. People can also choose to trade in the “social plastic” for micro-loans to start small businesses. 

Plastic Bank is trying a very different and innovative take on old solutions to old problems. We wish them success as they take on two of our world’s greatest problems! 

You can read more about their efforts and ideas on their blog, here.The pilot program is supposed to start in Lima, Peru.

Jakarta Post/P.J. Leo

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