Blockchain is Ready to Deal with the World’s Wasted Plastic
As a fundamental new technology, there are high expectations for blockchain. One such expectation is its potential benefits in addressing environmental and social issues globally. A number of blockchain startups are addressing the issue of waste plastic on land and at sea and rewarding participants in cryptocurrency, showing the potential viability of blockchain in real-world scenarios.
In September 2018, a study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) identified 65 use cases where blockchain could help build a global sustainable future, including addressing the issue of plastic waste.
Empower, a Norwegian startup is currently crowdfunding to launch a collection point in Bali and take Norway’s native recycling example global. A startup from Canada founded in 2013, The Plastic Bank, has already been working to help cleanup plastic waste in developing countries, tracking it on the blockchain.
Empower: bringing Norwegian environmentalism to Indonesia through the blockchain
Norwegian founder and blockchain entrepreneur, Wilhelm Myrer, was looking for a blockchain idea that was about more than money. Myrer was introduced to the chief executive of Nordic Ocean Watch who was looking for a blockchain-based idea to keep beaches clean. The idea for Empower was formed and quickly gained backing from government-owned enterprise incubator Innovation Norway.
In Norway, like in Canada, plastic bottles can be returned for a refund. The reward for recyclers is the equivalent of between $0.23 and $0.46 CAD per bottle depending on the size. As an added incentive, if producers collect back 95 percent of bottles, they are excluded from paying an environmental tax. Given this double benefit, it’s no surprise that 97 percent of plastic bottles are returned in Norway.
“The reason we have a high recycling rate in Norway is that you learn from being a kid that plastic has a value, you can pick it up and buy some candy with it,” said Myrer, who hopes to do the same in Indonesia to stop people just dropping plastic. “We can give the value back to them.”
Empower plans to give plastic collectors in Indonesia a digital wallet to collect their rewards and which they can use in a similar way to a bank account, which many Indonesians in the area don’t have. Empower also plans a subscription service where people can pay to have their bottles and other goods collected as a donation towards plastic waste collection. Empower would take a 15 percent share of the subscriptions towards running costs.
The Plastic Bank: cleaning up plastic waste in developing countries
An early startup in the space from Vancouver, by David Katz and Shaun Frankson founded The Plastic Bank to help clean the world’s plastic waste. The startup allows individuals who gather plastic in areas of poverty and high plastic waste to be rewarded with money, items, or cryptocurrency. These plastic collectors receive a higher than market rate, and the plastic collected is sold at a premium as “Social Plastic.”
“The value of Social Plastic® goes beyond the commodity price of plastic: a ladder of opportunity is created for the world’s poor,” explained The Plastic Bank on their website.
The company also supports local entrepreneurs in setting up small stores where plastic waste is used like currency. It operates in the Philippines, Haiti, Brazil and South Africa.
The Plastic Bank’s Social Plastic is sold for use in manufacturing and industry, and to contribute to its incentive programs, and support its expansion plans for global recycling ecosystems.
The Plastic Bank has won its second UN award in 2018, one of 19 Lighthouse Momentum for Change Activity awards.
Philanthropic and environmental use cases for blockchain technology are growing around the world. The WEF says that if blockchain is applied correctly “it could create a sustainability revolution.”
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