An organisation collecting plastic gets traction from a major Geneva bank

Photo : Pixabay

On July 30th, an old Geneva bank working with the world’s richest proudly signed a partnership with another bank that’s working with the poorest people of Haiti, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The Genevois bank is well-known: Lombard & Odier is 224 years of age and employs more than 2,000 people. The other is called Plastic Bank, 7 years old with about 20 employees. The partnership, of which the value was not disclosed, is all about collecting 795 tons of plastic in Haiti before it reaches the ocean.

Why it matters. 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year according to a 2015 study. Plastic Bank has developed a network of 20,000 collectors across 3 countries and a branded “Social Plastic”, which for the first time, has enrolled a major financial actor among its donators.

Yves Desfayes, Strategic Sales Manager for Europe at Plastic Bank:

“Investors were looking for ‘meaningful’ financial placements. Thanks to our partnership, they fund the collection of plastic before it gets to the ocean while empowering local communities.”

How it works. The social enterprise sees itself as a bank for the world’s poorest. Their members collect plastic and exchange them for tokens on their Plastic Bank account. With these, they can buy basic necessities such as groceries, telephone minutes, and health insurance. “We are the world’s largest chain of stores for the ultra-poor,” says David Katz, founder and CEO of Plastic Bank. Here are some of the key figures:

  • 12,600 tons of collected plastic

  • 20,700 registered members

  • 320 collection points

What is Social Plastic? Members drop their plastic at centres where it is sorted. It is then recycled to become “social plastic” - the Plastic Bank’s product. This raw material can be bought to manufacture more environmentally and socially ethical products. Buyers can monitor transactions throughout all of the supply-chain on the blockchain-based Plastic-Bank platform.

How it is financed. The Plastic Bank’s revenues come from the sale of recycled plastic, from the branding of multinational companies products in their centres and from “Plastic Neutrality Programs”. Following the model of carbon neutrality, they consist of making individuals, events, or companies compensate for their use of plastic by buying Social Plastic Collection Credits (SPCCs).

Plastic Bank received numerous sustainability prizes including the UN momentum for Chain Award at the COP 23.