Banking on plastic

Banking on plastic

At Love Ocean, our mission is to turn the tide on plastic pollution. To do that, we need to work with partners who are actively committed to the same goal. Partners like Plastic Bank

We know we keep saying it, but Love Ocean is more than a simply a brand or product – or even a brand or product with ‘a cause’. We are committed to building a community and helping to save our oceans and our planet the very best way we can. 

It was fundamental to us that as part of that, sales of our bottles would actively help fund a solution to plastic pollution in our oceans. We found our perfect partner in Plastic Bank.

Set up by David Katz in 2013, the premise was as simple as it’s proven to be effective: to give genuine economic value to plastic waste. And through that process – by in effect turning it into a currency – making it too valuable to throw away.

More than 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced every year. It’s an astonishing figure – as is the fact that only 5-10% of it gets recycled worldwide. And that, according to National Geographic, an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic waste find its way to our seas each year, damaging our ecosystems and killing marine life.

Plastic Bank not only tackles the ocean plastic problem. It does it while helping to improve the lives and wellbeing of the often-poor communities that are most affected by the plastic that washes up on their local beaches. By giving mixed plastic waste a tangible value that can be exchanged. Here’s how.

Plastic Bank in action
Imagine a young woman in the Peruvian capital, Lima, who is living on less than US$1 a day. There, as in other developing countries, most plastic waste is dumped in the streets or in rivers – something that’s believed to play an enormous part in the vast amount of plastic that ends up polluting our seas.

Encouraged by Plastic Bank, this young woman begins to collect up the plastic waste that covers her local beach and delivers it to her local Plastic Bank.

In ‘payment’, she receives tools, clothing and suppliesor any other goods or service of her choice, from sustainable cooking fuels to 3D-printed products; access to WiFi or solar power to charge her mobile phone. Every one of which saves her money that can then be used on other essentials, such as food.

It is a true ecosystem, giving people, companies and communities a chance to collect and trade troublesome plastic waste as a currency. Furthermore, the scheme has been designed as a franchise model, able to be supported and grown ‘on the ground’. Some franchisees have even set up their businesses and started employing people themselves.

Closing the circle
The aim is to offer independent support to help deliver social and economic empowerment. Plastic Bank also offers access to 3D printers and plastic extruders, for example, to help their local partners create useful things like water filters and wrenches.

Collected plastic waste becomes what Plastic Bank has christened, ‘Social Plastic’ recycled plastic thats crushed into pellets that a growing number of big brands and manufacturers, such as IBM, Aldi and SC Johnson, to buy and turn into new products or packaging.

So far, 21,000 collectors have removed 31.1 million pounds of plastic waste off beaches. That’s equivalent to more than 707 million plastic water bottles or 1.5 billion coffee cup lids.

The German chemical and consumer goods company, Henkel was one of the first businesses to partner with Plastic Bank. So far, its helped to collect over 750,000 kg of plastic waste through five recycling stations developed in Haiti. This has prevented over 37.5 million plastic bottles from entering the ocean. The partnership is now expanding into Egypt. As Katz has noted: ‘We must turn off the faucet and continue to monetise waste so it’s never discarded.’

Be the change
It’s estimated that if we continue to use – and abuse – plastic as we are, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.

Plastic Bank relies on donations from brands to fund the bank that pays the communities it supports – which is why every Love Ocean bottle we sell pays for the equivalent of 1kg plastic to be removed. It’s brilliant, life- (and potentially planet-) changing work. And we’re proud to be part of it.

We all agree: someone needs to do something about ocean plastic, states Katz, on the Plastic Bank website. This is the something, you are the someone.

Words to live by – for all of us.


Click to watch David Katz’s Two-Minute TED Talk: Turn off the Tap