Once hailed as a miracle material, the now ubiquitous plastic is out of control, and it's polluting the water, littering our landscapes, and endangering wildlife all over the world. But what if all of that waste plastic could be used as a type of currency, and used to help reduce poverty?
That's the idea behind Plastic Bank, which calls for harvesting and repurposing waste plastics and using them, in conjunction with 3D printing, as "Social Plastic".
"The Plastic Bank is setting up plastic repurposing centers around the world, where there’s an abundance of both waste plastic and poverty.
We are empowering people to harvest plastics as a currency they can exchange for tools, household items, parts & 3D printing.
Our mission is to remove plastic waste from the land, oceans and waterways while helping people ascend from poverty and transition into entrepreneurship." - Plastic Bank
Part of the problem, as Plastic Bank sees it, is that we don't perceive that there's any value in plastic, and so it gets tossed indiscriminately. But if the real value of plastic could be realized, it would become too valuable to simply throw away, and too valuable to leave in the ocean, and could be considered to be a resource, not a waste product.
Plastic Bank ran a successful crowdfunding campaign this year, raising over $20,000 toward the project's initiative, which aims to open its first pilot project in Lima, Peru, in February of 2014.
"The Plastic Bank is a plastics return, repurposing, and 3D printing center strategically located in areas around the world with both an abundance of plastic waste & poverty.
Our self-sustaining business model empowers the poor to harvest plastics as a currency for various opportunities including education, training, necessities and 3D printing services." - Plastic Bank
Because there are so many different types of plastic, recycling all of them can seem like a monumental task, but Dr. Mike Biddle, who is on the Plastic Bank Board of Directors, may have the answer, as he's developed a comprehensive 30 step plastics recycling system that can produce plastic pellets for reuse by industry, using less than a tenth of the energy it currently takes to produce virgin plastic.
Find out more, or sign up to join the Plastic Bank movement, at the website.