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The Q&A With Plastic Bank Co-Founder And CEO, David Katz

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Below is our recent interview with David Katz, Co-Founder And CEO of Plastic Bank:

Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Plastic Bank?

A: Plastic Bank is a social enterprise that builds ethical recycling ecosystems in coastal communities and reprocesses the materials for reintroduction into the global manufacturing supply chain. We work with individuals in places like Haiti, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil and Egypt, to collect ocean-bound plastic waste. Collectors in Plastic Bank’s ecosystem receive a premium for the materials they collect which helps them provide basic family necessities such as groceries, cooking fuel, school tuition, and health insurance.

Q: What is your mission?

A: Our mission at Plastic Bank is to stop ocean plastic by gathering people together to monetize waste while improving lives. We have chosen to eliminate poverty by monetizing ocean-bound plastic waste in communities that produce vast amounts of it. Plastic Bank empowers people to raise themselves out of poverty through the collection of waste, which in turn results in greater circularity, regeneration, and sustainability for the planet. In some cases, we’ve even set up our waste collectors with bank accounts and helped them open doors to new opportunities. Through our work, we provide an infrastructure which helps people in vulnerable communities become financially included, creating brighter, longer-term futures beyond the hunger of today.

The United Nations has compiled a list of 17 goals for global sustainable development. These goals are ranked in order of importance. Before we can achieve responsible consumption and production, which is goal number 12 on the list, we need to address the first goal: NO POVERTY. Until poverty is eliminated, everything else is secondary.

Q: Can you tell us something more about the One Billion Bottles milestone?

A: Plastic Bank recently announced that we stopped our one billionth bottle of ocean plastic. This is the equivalent of more than 20 million kilograms of plastic prevented from entering the world’s oceans. Seven years of work has gone into reaching this milestone, and it would not have been possible without the help of our global partner organizations – including Henkel, SC Johnson, Procter & Gamble, IBM, and Coca-Cola – and more than 17,000 individual collectors around the world. At a time when the world is calling for greater responsibility, the one billion bottles announcement is evidence of our ability to make deliberate environmental, social and economic impact, and confirms we can reduce plastic waste while driving social progress through a circular economy.

Q: What can we expect from Plastic Bank in the next 12 months? What are your plans?

A: With the 320 collection branches we’ve already opened around the globe over the past seven years, we are accelerating both our collection and impact. We expect to recycle another billion bottles over the next 12 months. We are opening new branches in Egypt and are looking at expanding further into Africa. We also plan to expand our presence in Asia. Unfortunately, COVID has made us scale back travel to our ecosystems, so we’ve started thinking of ways to standardize our processes and systems. We are even developing a turnkey approach to local operations that empowers individual sponsored locations – and this increases our potential for growth exponentially. It’s an exciting proposition.

Q: What is the best thing about Plastic Bank that people might not know about?

A: As CEO I often get asked, “What can people do to help Plastic Bank?” I think they expect me to say, “Follow us online, sign up for our newsletter, or donate money to our cause.” However, the biggest thing individuals can do to help us in our mission is to wield their power as consumers to affect positive change.

Every piece of plastic ever produced is still on the planet. We currently have 10 trillion kilograms of it on Earth. So why do we continue to produce more virgin plastic? The answer is, because every time a consumer makes a purchase, they vote in favour of that product – including its journey from manufacture to disposal. The more people buy single-use items that degrade the environment, the more those things will continue to be produced.

If you want to help Plastic Bank, go into a supermarket and ask the manager to point out the products that are recycled, sustainably made, and help regenerate the environment. Asking these questions will encourage retailers to start asking their own questions of the brands they sell. The retailer listens to you, the consumer. In turn, the big box brands listen to the retailer.

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