Eco com­pany that’s striv­ing to end ocean plas­tic hon­oured

The Province - - NEWS - GOR­DON MCINTYRE gordm­cin­tyre@post­media.com twit­ter.com/gordm­cin­tyre

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.”

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, and ac­cess clean wa­ter.

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