Supplemento al N° 5 (giugno) 2018 della rivista Plastix - Poste Italiane Spa - Spedizione in abbonamento postale - D.L. 353/2003 (conv. in L. 27/02/2004 n. 46) art. 1, comma 1, DCB Milano - ISSN 1824-8411

THEOPINION

by Nicoletta Boniardi

Rather than a trend, circular economy is becoming a

vid Katz, co-founder and CEO of Plastic Bank,

the only organization in the world that has

managed to monetize waste to the benefit

of the neediest populations.

«Even hypothesizing that programmes to

clean up the sea and beaches – from the Oce-

an Cleanup project to virtuous initiatives by

environmental associations around the glo-

be – were successful, they still wouldn’t be

enough» Katz claims. Since the 1950s, pro-

duction of plastic items and their aban-

donment in the environment at end of life

has grown at a vertiginous rate. Quantifying

the extent of the phenomenon is anything

but a simple undertaking, but environmen-

tal science experts are working on it. In the

study,“Production, use, and fate of all plastics

A

Much more than recycled, it is social plastic!

fashion. It is very much the subject of discussions that

often lacks substance. This is not the case for Plastic Bank

evermade”,RolandGeyerandotherUSrese-

archers claim that the entire global produc-

tion of virgin polymers amounts to 8 billion

300 million tons, and that it has risen at a rate

of 8.4 per cent each year.

The cumulative effect of this growth, howe-

ver, soars to 19,000 per cent: from 2 million

tons in 1950, we in fact exceeded 380 mil-

lion in 2015. But the most alarming figure is

that of these 380 million tons – Katz points

out – approximately 8 million ends up in the

sea, joining the approximate 150 million

tons already there. But where is this waste

coming from?

«It appears that 80 per cent comes from the

most economically disadvantaged countri-

es» the CEO of Plastic Bank points out.

«Recycling is certainly not one of the priority

concerns of people living in misery, who are

more concerned about food, their family’s

safety or finding shelter». Waste and poverty

are two of the problems that often exist side

by side and that Katz, along with his partner

Shaun Frankson, have been able to address

by establishing Plastic Bank, a chain of shops

for the ultra poor, where everything can be

bought using plastic waste as currency.

«Each day, the collectors – essentially women

who lost everything during the earthquake

– bring the waste they find on the streets or

that they collect by going door to door to our

shops in Haiti» Katz continues. «The materials

are weighed and their value – 25 US cents per

pound (40 cents per kilogram) – is deposited

into an on-line account, and becomes a nest

egg they can dip into. This way the people

who have been the hardest hit can recover

their dignity». And there’s more. In this vir-

tuous process, even waste finds a new digni-

fied purpose: sorted, shredded and packa-

ged, it is sold to big brands who use “social

plastic” in their products. These include Mar-

ks & Spencer, Henkel and Shell.

Katz and Frankson are, however, moving

forward and developing the project even

further. About six months ago, in collabo-

ration with IBM, they launched a safe bank

application, that not only tracks what is col-

lected, but also provides a digital portfolio

that protects earnings without the earners

running the risk of being robbed. Frankson

says the tool is accessible to everyone, or al-

most everyone, considering that about 50

per cent of people in Haiti have a smartpho-

ne where they can download the app.

But still there’s more. Having a digital system

means being able to deposit the material in

any shop around the world, and that a family

can withdraw earnings in bricks, pay for scho-

ol and healthcare, or purchase energy or da-

ta for their cell phones in the slums of Mani-

la. Today Plastic Bank operates in Haiti and

the Philippines, it has selected staff and part-

ners for Brazil and is heading for India and

Ethiopia. Nothing is stopping people in ri-

cher countries from making donations with

this new currency. Because, in this beautiful

example of a circular economy, «Plastic is not

just plastic or recycled plastic, but it is social

plastic, a material that acquires value throu-

gh the lives of the people involved, whether

rich or poor» Katz says.

«A

huge quantity of plastic waste is

ending up in the sea every day,

every minute. Animals are dying,

suffocating on plastic fragments, bags and

netting. However, the last thing we need to

do is clean the oceans». Is this going against

the grain? No, it is an ingenious idea, that li-

ke all simple solutions is so obvious, it pas-

ses unnoticed. «If we go into the kitchen and

see the sink overflowing, water is flooding

the floor, it’s slopping up against the walls,

what is the first thing we think of? We don’t

think twice, we turn off the tap. It would be

useless to wash the floor, pull the plug out

of the sink, and mop up the water unless we

had a way to stop the flow. And so why not

do the same with the ocean? » explains Da-

MARKETS AND DATA

BUSINESS

CASES

For some people

“digitalization”

is not just the

buzzword of the

moment, but a

strategy pursued

for years – one

that has led a

longstanding

family-run

company to

develop, entirely

internally, an

MES system

tailored to its

own needs

Page 22

Revenue and employment

are up for Italian

manufacturers, who are

increasingly the

protagonists in the digital

revolution, moving in line

with the Industry 4.0

principles

MATERIALS

Page 2

Sustainability is one of those

words that can mean everything

or nothing. RadiciGroup makes

use of LCA analysis and EPD

declarations in order to

communicate environmental

results in a transparent manner

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