Articles

The Plastic Bank

December 31, 2019


Haiti is special in a way that’s…
It’s a beautiful country. There is a lot of pollution, but the
people, they’re happy, they’re friendly. They’re willing to do something.
They only need a little step up… to be able to resolve
this big problem that they have. While windsurfing for the Olympics I saw
the amount of plastic in the oceans. I’ve been battling the plastic ever since. Before I even touched the ground, I saw
little streams in between the houses… and they were polluted
with lots of plastic and other debris. It was quite vivid and surreal. So,
I came over here to meet up with David. David is the founder of The Plastic Bank.
I wanted to see what he’s doing over here. How his social plastic
is going to save Haiti. We’re just simply an opportunity
for the entire world… to be a part of the extraction of plastic
from ocean-bound waterways. We’re working with the poor and
prohibiting it from entering the ocean. The ultimate goal for The Plastic Bank is
to monetize waste in such a way… that every piece of material that anyone
encounters should be saved. The opportunity for people to take plastic
which is discarded freely… to be able to collect and take it to one
of our centres… and be able to exchange that for cash… or exchange it for cooking fuel
or the ability to charge a cell phone. So, we’re here in Port-au-Prince
and we’re going to go up into the hills… just about 1500 metres above
Port-au-Prince. I’m going to show you… how that centre is helping keep
all the material from flowing. Right now, Kenscoff. Great. Let me show you around.
I’ll show you where we are. This is Kenscoff. And here
with the rain, this is where it begins. It gets caught up.
It gets caught up in the stream… Stuff like this flows down the hills…
-And it makes its way to the ocean. It’s always the lowest point.
So it’s important to start here. Really at the origin of it.
Let’s go, I’ll show you around. The people come in here with the plastic
and then what happens? It’s a simple process. You can collect
plastic, bring it to the centre… and it gets weighed. By the pound. You can either get cash,
or you can buy things with it. Whether it be water,
sustainable cooking fuel or stoves. How many of these containers are there? We continue to grow.
In Haiti we got 30 collection locations. That’s amazing. The people, their first priority
is not looking after the world…. but keeping themselves
and their families alive. You have to already know
where your next meal is coming from. You can’t have someone living in abject
poverty be considerate of recycling. You can’t think of others if you don’t
have food for your children. In order to understand
where all the plastic is coming from… we headed to one of the river mouths. The amount of plastic that flows
into the ocean is huge, just insane. There was no sand, there was just plastic,
and plastic, and plastic… and then there was water.
So, the whole beach was gone. Hello.
-How are you? I’m good. What does The Plastic Bank
give you in return for your plastic? They give me everything
I need for this job… work clothes, sanitation
and financial support… so I can get more money which helps me… to pay for school tuition
and feed my kids. Behind me you see the element
of every school that we went through. Those sacks are put inside the schools.
That’s where they dispose of the plastic. When they’re full, we come
and pick them up, we weigh them… and give the money to the schools
for what they need. As new and virgin material price drops… of course the price of recycled material
drops. A challenge that we’ve uncovered,
an opportunity, more appropriately… is to bring price stability to the poor. Shell supports The Plastic Bank. So they
can pay the collectors and make sure… they get the right money for the plastic.
It improves their situation at home. I enjoyed interacting with the people
and seeing the benefits they had… exchanging smiles, fist bumps. Happy people that are willing
to make a change. I’m just gifted to be a part of this thing.
Not just as an employee… but the impact that The Plastic Bank is
making. Making a change in this country. The ultimate goal for The Plastic Bank
is to monetize waste… in such a way that it is never discarded. It’s a commitment to make
plastic-free streets around the world.

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