Vancouver eco company honoured by U.N., Vatican
The Plastic Bank, a Vancouver-based not-for-profit that turns ocean-bound plastic into currency for the world's poor, will receive the United Nation's Momentum for Change award on Nov. 14 at Bonn, Germany. (Submitted photo: The Plastic Bank)
The world has taken notice of The Plastic Bank, now so has the Vatican.
The Plastic Bank, a Vancouver for-profit social enterprise whose goal is to stop plastic from winding up in the ocean while enriching some of the world's poorest people, will be awarded a United Nations Lighthouse Momentum for Change award on Tuesday at Bonn, Germany.
The ceremony is part of the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Plastic Bank also won the global Sustainia Community award at Paris in 2015.
Following quickly on the heels of the Bonn presentation, Plastic Bank co-founders David Katz and Shaun Frankson will have an hour with the Pope in Vatican City on Sunday (which happens to be the World Day of the Poor).
Have the two appointments so close together was a pleasant concurrence of scheduling, Katz said.
"All kinds of exciting things are happening," he said. "It's just one of those beautiful coincidences in life (that Bonn and the Vatican fell so close together) as we take our action forward.
"More and more people are noticing."
Katz, 48, co-founded Nero Global Tracking, which tracked vehicle fleets via GPS. He sold the company three years ago and came up with the eco-goal of ridding the world of its production of virgin plastic.
"The last thing we should be doing, the very, very last thing we should be doing is cleaning the ocean," Katz said. "If you walked into your house and the sink was overflowing, you need to turn off the tap before cleaning up the mess.
"That's what it's like with plastic waste."
Global companies such as Shell, Marks & Spencer and IBM are on board and Katz said he will announce another "multi-billion-dollar" client on Wednesday in Düsseldorf.
"This will enliven the conversation."
The drop in the price of oil has been hard on the recycling business around the world, Katz said, calling it devastating for the world's oceans.
Katz said there are eight trillion kilograms of plastic in the oceans worldwide. Take the average weight of a human adult of 62 kilograms and that's the weight of 129 billion people. But there are "only" 7.5 billion of us on the planet in total.
"More than eight million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year," Katz said. "It's the equivalent of a full Vancouver garbage truck being emptied into the ocean every minute of every hour of every day.
"And it's increasing."
For the most part the problem isn't in the rich world, it's that 80 per cent of the plastic entering the ocean comes from the poorest people on the planet.
A pilot project in Haiti has been successful, Katz said, in encouraging people to recycle plastic at one of 40 depots around the island.
The plastic is weighed and people are given currency depending on the weight. That currency could be in the form of a deposit, a bill payment, cash or other options.
Recycling entrepreneurs are trained, given uniforms, boots, hats and I.D. cards. With the money they earn they can get medical insurance, pay for school, obtain Wi-Fi and a cellphone, access clean water.
"Things people need, but can't afford," Katz said.
People in Vancouver can help, too, Katz said, by donating the cash they get for turning in recycling.
"Plastic has had an immense global impact already and there's going to be more to come."