IBM plays a key role in advancing the circular economy in their work with The Plastic Bank, which mobilizes recycling entrepreneurs from amongst the world’s most vulnerable communities to clean up plastic waste in exchange for digital currency which they can use for life-changing goods and services. The initiative incentivizes participants to collect plastic waste which would otherwise be discarded due to its lack of value perceived by commercial recyclers. Under this initiative, the flow of discarded plastic to the ocean is interrupted, collectors earn a predictable income, and the plastic returns to commerce as a socially responsible material corporations can purchase to use in their products. The initiative is enabled by IBM Blockchain technology, a secure and trusted platform which tracks the plastic recycling process end to end – from quantities of waste collected, to credit and compensation to collectors, to engaging local institutions such as schools, municipalities, and businesses that accept the digital currency, until the delivery of social plastic to participating corporations.
The initiative piloted in 2014 in Haiti. Today, it has 32 operating locations in Haiti and 27 locations in the Philippines, along with locations in Indonesia. The Philippines and Indonesia are ranked among the 3 top plastic polluting nations by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and Haiti ranks 170th in the United Nations Human Development Index. This initiative is transforming people’s livelihoods by giving them access to decent work and a regular source of income, while preventing ocean plastic pollution. Since 2014, over 2,000 collectors have returned more than 3 million kilograms of plastic waste to the recycling loop through this platform. Through its technology IBM connects the private sector, communities, government institutions and NGOs to collaborate for a global cause.