David Katz is on a mission. A mission not only to rid beaches and coastal areas of the plastic waste that plagues them, but to create a regenerative society. He is the founder and CEO of Plastic Bank, a social enterprise founded in 2013 that aims to both provide work for disadvantaged communities via plastic waste collection, and to help companies increase recycled plastic within their supply chains.
It works a little bit like this: operating in Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines and most recently Egypt, people collect waste plastic at waterways and coastal areas and return it to a centralised Plastic Bank collection point. The collectors then receive a premium for the materials they collect, which helps them provide basic family necessities such as groceries, cooking fuel, school tuition, and health insurance. Workers tend to be those on the fringes of society, who, through the regular work provided by Plastic Bank, can better support their families.
Once the plastic has been collected, it goes on to be sorted and processed for use in products made by companies around the world, beauty industry players Henkel and SC Johnson among them. This recycled plastic specifically collected through Plastic Bank has even been given its own name: “social plastic”. And the company earlier this year announced it had saved 2bn bottles from entering the oceans through its work.
Despite the scale of the ocean-bound plastic challenge, Katz is incredibly positive, seeing Plastic Bank’s work as part of a trend towards waste one day being a form of currency, across all geographies. “If every bottle or piece of packaging was worth £5 or €5 or $5, would you see any in the waste bin? Would you see any in the environment or the ocean? No, of course not,” he says. “We don’t need to change the plastic, we need to change the way we view it.”