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This article was originally published on Henkel Spotlight North America.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on April, 8th, 2021.
As we continue to celebrate the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day, it’s important to shed light on one of the greatest areas of environmental decline: our oceans. In fact, 40 percent of ocean surfaces are currently covered with plastic, and within the next 50 years, this material is estimated to outnumber all of the fish in the sea. There’s no question that plastic waste continues to be an increasing issue throughout the globe, in and outside of the ocean. But what’s the root cause? And more importantly, what’s the long-term solution?
There’s no question that plastic waste continues to be an increasing issue throughout the globe, in and outside of the ocean. But what’s the root cause? And more importantly, what’s the long-term solution?
To gain a better understanding of plastic waste in the ocean, it’s vital to explore one of the root causes: extreme poverty. Unfortunately, many countries with high poverty rates lack the resources necessary to build waste removal and recycling infrastructure. It’s estimated that approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the ocean each year, and about 90 percent of it comes from 10 rivers around the globe (8 in Asia and 2 in Africa). And what's more, due to the slowing pace of poverty decline, the world is not on track to end poverty by 2030.
David Katz, Founder & CEO, Plastic Bank
Similar to many environmental issues of this magnitude and complexity, there are a number of solutions, but only a few that target the root cause. In fact, we founded a Vancouver-based social enterprise – Plastic Bank – in 2013 to help serve as a root cause solution to preventing the flow of plastic into our oceans. We build ethical recycling ecosystems in coastal communities and reprocess the materials for reintroduction into the global supply chain. Plastic Bank is empowering the regenerative society.
David Katz and Henkel employees at a beach clean-up event in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February 2020.
Our partners like Henkel, are core to our model and long-term success. We’ve found that global challenges like plastic waste cannot be accomplished without the support, resources and knowledge of organizations like Henkel. Our partnership with Henkel allows us to bring our model to scale and ultimately drive a circular economy.
We’re proud of our ongoing collaboration with Plastic Bank which addresses two of today’s biggest global challenges: plastic waste and poverty. Our partnership provides a unique opportunity for us to pursue our goal of implementing more recycled plastic into our product’s packaging while ensuring a steady income for the collector.
Jillaine Dellis, Director, Head of Sustainability, Henkel Consumer Products, North America.
In fact, Henkel was our first partner, and the first global consumer goods company to join forces with Plastic Bank. Following the achievements of our partnership launched in 2017, we decided to extend our partnership by another 5 years at the end of 2019.
One way we’re driving a circular economy with Henkel is through the activation of dedicated waste collection centers in regions affected by plastic pollution. These dedicated centers serve as areas where local communities can return collected plastic waste and exchange it for basic family necessities such as groceries, cooking fuel, school tuition, and health insurance. With our three collection centers in Haiti for example, we have collected more than 200 metric tons of Social Plastic® which then has been sorted and introduced into the recycling value chain.
In 2020 alone, 560 tons of recycled material – called Social Plastic® were integrated in the packaging of Henkel products and a total of more than 760 metric tons have been processed for Henkel since the partnership began in 2017.
Henkel and Plastic Bank also aim to expand the recycling ecosystem in Egypt and are currently working on the infrastructure for more than 400 Plastic Bank collection points. Together we have recently opened the first three plastic waste collection centers in Cairo. With our efforts in Egypt, we expect to reach an additional collection capacity of up to 5,000 tons annually – this corresponds to up to 1 billion bottles over a five year-period.
David Katz frequently visits Henkel sites and educates employees about the importance of a responsible use of plastics.
We strongly believe that these types of long-term solutions and programs with dedicated partners, like Henkel, are key to reducing waste, and most importantly, empowering a regenerative society. Our partnership will continue to be vitally important into the future as consumers increasingly look to companies and brands to lead the way on implementing changes and programs that help protect our environment.