Officials at Plastic Bank are forging major business partnerships, getting props from the United Nations and preparing for a Vatican visit as their programs to stem the tide of ocean-bound plastic spread beyond the shores of Haiti and the Philippines.
The Vancouver-based for-profit social enterprise pays poor people to pick up plastic from waterways, canals, beaches and other access points to oceans. They redeem the items at collection centers for money, goods and services like cooking fuel and phone charging.
Then partners on the ground sort, wash and reduce the plastic to flake for easy shipping to manufacturers, including Germany-based Henkel AG & Co. The maker of home, laundry and personal care products like Loctite adhesive and Persil detergent announced it is forming a strategic partnership with Plastic Bank to become a leader in sustainability.
Henkel describes the partnership as "turning environmental challenges into life chances" in an Oct. 24 news release about its new role to support recycling infrastructure in impoverished areas. Details will be released at a Nov. 15 news conference in Düsseldorf, Germany.
In a phone interview, David Katz, founder of Plastic Bank, lauded Henkel for becoming the first major consumer goods company to be a strategic partner. He said the manufacturer will pay a premium for "social plastic" to use in packaging while it not only meets sustainability goals but improves thousands of lives.
The plastic collectors often put their redemption income toward school tuition, which brings educational and career opportunities. Katz says Plastic Bank addresses the root cause of ocean plastic while easing global poverty.
In another new effort, Henkel and Shell Oil are participating in plastic off-set programs like those used to reduce carbon footprint, Katz said. For its part, Shell has committed to fund the collection of 1 million kilograms (2.2 million pounds) of ocean-bound plastic and then to use the flake.
By the end of the year, Katz expects to announce similar new partnerships with billion-dollar companies, including one that aims to be the first plastics-neutral company in the world. This company will determine how much plastic is used per employee and then make a contribution that equates to the cost of extracting that volume of material from the environment.