A new way of currency is about to take over Haiti. As being one of the poorest country worldwide more precisely the poorest country in the western hemisphere, it is more likely that plastic will be used as a new method of exchanging goods in the country. Anne Field, a Forbe contributor has the details.
“Startup The Plastic Bank is continuing its push to create “social plastic”–building a new currency for the poor and a way to reduce ocean pollutants before they make their way into the water.
Most recently, the company just opened its 30th “recycling market” in Haiti.
When last we met the social enterprise, based in Vancouver, the company had recently announced it had created a 3D printed wrench from recycled ocean plastic. Over the ensuing two years, a lot has happened.
The basic idea is the same: Allowing residents of impoverished communities in developing nations to collect plastic littering beaches and other waterways and turn it into a form of currency by trading the material with recycling centers for various goods. The startup recycles the plastic and then sells to corporations interested in finding creative ways to be environmentally responsible. “It’s a way to stop plastic from ever entering the ocean,” says founder David Katz.
Last year, Katz and co-founder Shaun Frankson turned their attention from Peru, where they had set up a pilot in 2014, to Haiti. There they’ve built 30 recycling markets, mostly in the Port au Prince area. (Twelve existed in another form before and were turned into Social Plastic facilities; 11 are solar-powered).
At these centers, locals can bring the plastic they’ve gathered and use it to build up a savings account, applying the accrued points to purchasing such goods as high-efficiency cook stoves and sustainable cooking fuel. People who sign on 5 to 10 friends earn a bonus. And for 40-50 plastic bottles, they also can recharge their phones. The bottom line: People can use the money they normally would spend on household expenses, which claim a large portion of their income, and apply it to, say, and schooling for their children.
The 30th market, which opened this week, was sponsored by Norton Point, a designer eye wear and accessory company that also is launching a crowdfunding campaign to produce sunglasses using plastic from the ocean.
As you might expect, setting this up took some work–creating the infrastructure, presenting the idea and so on. “Operating in Haiti is not easy,” says Katz. Plus, a large portion of his time has been spent attracting buyers. That means signing up a critical mass of companies interested in purchasing the recycled material and using it in their own products.
“We’re a sales organization,” says Katz. “This only works when we sell the plastic.” Brands will probably exhibit their participation in the effort on product packaging.
That 3D printed wrench is part of a larger goal, but is on hold for the moment. Together with engineers at the University of British Columbia the co-founders created a machine that could extrude a long filament, the central ingredient of 3D printing. For the foreseeable future, however, according to Katz, they’re working on bringing on more staff. A large, unnamed company, which will be able to market itself as a founding partner of The Plastic Bank, is funding the technology development.
Katz plans to use his technology platform to share ideas for quick fixes in communities globally. For example, a seamstress who can’t afford to buy a new part for her iron would be able to submit a picture of the item online and then receive a file from a CAD designer with the needed element, to be printed locally through a 3D printer in a nearby center. Ultimately, says Katz, “We will create a library of ideas that can be shared around the world to fix common problems.”
Katz, an avid ocean diver, was inspired to tackle the problem of plastic pollution while traveling around world, encountering beaches littered with plastic.”
With Haiti being one of the dirtiest country in the world with plastics and trashes in every corner, this idea of transforming plastic as a new currency will surely not fail. It is likely that the streets of Haiti’s cities mainly Port-au-Prince will be plastic less, a lot more clean of course.
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