World Ocean Day: Saving the ocean from plastic pollution

Plastic Bank receives innovation award for first 3D printing from recycled plasticSunday, June 8 was officially World Ocean Day. At a time when we find the world’s oceans in crisis from acidification, warming surface temperatures, overfishing and pollution, calling attention to the health of our oceans is of paramount importance.

Last summer year we introduced our readers to the Plastic Bank, a new social and environmental movement aimed at removing plastic waste from oceans and waterways and turning this plastic effluent choking the seas into a kind of currency able to lift people out of poverty through a self-sustaining program of entrepreneurship. It’s called “Social Plastic.”

The idea of Social Plastic is to turn the plastic waste accumulating along shorelines and in the oceans into a valuable commodity through the establishment of “Plastic Banks” in poor communities with an abundance of plastic waste and few opportunities of a better life for its citizens.

Plastic Banks will harvest the waste plastic collected for recycling, reuse and 3D printing of everyday products. Plastic Banks issue credits for the harvested plastic that can be used for micro-finance loans, exchange for everyday items made from “repurposed” plastic or for access to 3D printing for necessities to help a community with a specific need – say a new water filter or some other key item that can have a positive impact on the whole community. Harvesters are further empowered as entrepreneurs through access to education and opportunities.

Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia by co-founders David Katz and Shaun Frankson, Plastic Bank recently reached an important milestone with completion of their first 3D printed items made entirely from recycled plastic waste harvested from the ocean. On May 29th, The Recycling Council of British Columbia awarded Plastic Bank their 2014 RCBC Innovation Award for their achievement. 

Katz and Frankson plan on opening the first fully operational Plastic Bank next month in Peru. The hope is to continue rolling-out the idea of Plastic Bank, building facilities throughout poor communities while creating greater demand for products made from recycled plastic that once littered our oceans and waterways. As the idea of Social Plastic grows, the value of the harvested plastic will increase,  creating more opportunities for people to lift themselves, their families and their communities from poverty. Katz and Frankson envision Social Plastic as a worldwide movement that cleans the ocean and improves lives.

“Global social and environmental crises are linked, and so are the solutions,” says Katz. “The crisis of waste plastics is an industrial problem that demands a transformative solution, like taking ocean-bound plastic waste and assigning it value. That is the promise of social plastic.”

Image credit: Plasticbank.org

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