A New Recycling Venture Aims to Eliminate Virgin Plastic
Thursday, October 8, 2015
A recent list of 100 of the world’s most compassionate business leaders was topped by the usual suspects: Paul Polman, Richard Branson, Muhammad Yunus and Elon Musk. And then there’s David Katz.
Katz is an entrepreneur based in Vancouver, British Columbia, who for years ran a company he co-founded called Nero Global Tracking, which provides GPS tracking for mobile fleets of vehicles.
Last year, Katz, 46, sold the company to pursue a bold idea. “My goal is to eliminate the production of virgin plastic,” said Katz.
Thus was born The Plastic Bank, Katz’s latest project. The bank acts as a broker for recycling companies that receive discarded plastic bottles from individuals in underprivileged communities where resources are scarce and employment opportunities are few. It was this idea – to link recycling, pollution and global poverty – that got the attention of Salt magazine, which placed Katz fourth on its list of compassionate business leaders, between Yunus and Musk.
The Plastic Bank ran a small test project in Lima, Peru, and is now rolling out a larger project in Haiti. It works in concert with Haiti’s approximately 26 Ramase Lajan collection centers (Ramase Lajan translates to “picking up money” in Haitian Creole). Independent collectors turn in the bottles to Ramase Lajan, which sends the plastic to Haiti Recycling, which crushes it into pellets. Katz sells the pellets at a small premium, calling it “social plastic”, which he describes as “plastic with a story, plastic with a sizzle”. Waste collectors can choose whether to be paid in cash, with access to Wi-Fi or access to power to charge their mobile phones.
Katz took over management of the Haiti project in March from Executives Without Borders, a nonprofit that pairs businesses with nonprofits across the globe. Yaron Kaminski, the CEO of Executives Without Borders, said the need for plastic collecting and job creation in Haiti became apparent to him after his group traveled to the country after the 2010 earthquake and observed flooding as a result of canals clogged with plastic water bottles. More than 130m plastic bottles have been recycled since then.