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Turning Plastic Trash Into Cash in Haiti

What would our world look like without plastic? From life-saving medical devices to computers to Tupperware, it’s changed the way we live, work and understand the world around us. But the same wonder material that has revolutionized so much is choking our oceans. It’s estimated that, every minute, an entire garbage truck worth of plastic hits our oceans. Otherwise put, 8 million tons of once-useful items find their way to global waters each year. There, over time, they break into tiny pieces called “microplastics,” which end up consumed by marine life.

For David Katz, fighting plastic pollution should start long before a soda bottle hits the tide. What’s more, he believes the very plastic waste that litters our shores and seas is anything but waste. In 2014, David launched the Plastic Bank, “a global network of micro-recycling markets that empower the poor to transcend poverty by cleaning the environment,” according to its website. The organization currently operates in Haiti, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brazil, and works like this: community members collect plastic waste (much of it post-consumer products like milk containers, detergent bottles and plastic bags) and bring it to Plastic Bank centers where it’s weighed and exchanged for cash. In Haiti, for example, more than 2,000 collectors have recovered around 7-million pounds of plastic since the organization arrived in 2015.

What was once considered waste can now be sold to major brands like Marks and Spencer and Henkle, who will use it to package and distribute their products in a more sustainable manner. As David Katz puts it, this “social plastic” is “empowering and precious”—something that bonds collectors in places like the Philippines and Haiti to brands and consumers around the world.

This is the second story in our latest series, “The Brave,” all about the incredible people protecting our Great Big Planet.

Location

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

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