Their goal is to reach and impact 1 billion people – people they call recycling entrepreneurs – positively. They have launched The Plastic Bank in countries like Haiti, for example, where 75% of the population has no power, where 12,000,000 people live in dire poverty. They are helping these people take back control over their own destinies. And it’s working.
In simple terms, how The Plastic Bank works is like this: a collector, or a recycling entrepreneur, collects the plastic from off the ground and in the waterways and brings it in to one of The Plastic Bank’s recycling centres. From there, the collector is given access to things like cash, or cooking oil, or the ability to charge their phone – which may seem insignificant to those of us who have a charger, but we have power to do that, right? (In Haiti, when you’re making $2 a day in some cases, and spending upwards of 30- to 60-cents just to charge your phone, you’re spending 30% of your income on this pricy task. So The Plastic Bank is changing that.) But they haven’t stopped there. They are in the process of digitizing a currency, so that collectors won’t have to put themselves in the dangerous position of carrying cash, which can be risky. The Plastic Bank is enabling collectors to house their families, feed and clothe families, and even pay for tuitions – they are changing lives and they are changing the world.
I saw Shaun speak at a recent TED event here in Vancouver, and I knew I had to reach out to him. He is one of the neatest guys I’ve had the good fortune of connecting with. This is a guy who is fully sleeved, the most impressive tattoo artwork I’ve ever seen up-close. But it’s not like bad guy tattoo-ness; instead he’s plastered in his positive life affirming philosophies. Create, inspire, strategize. And in case he deviates, he’s got the 7 habits of highly effective people tattooed on his arms to serve as his guideposts.
One of the things Shaun said in his TED that really struck me was that caring for our planet and caring for the people on it is not a hippie thing, it’s not a millennial thing, it’s a human thing. Yes, being a responsible consumer is a human thing.
And how do we do that?
Well, for starters, Shaun made a really cool distinction for me when I asked him why plastic is ‘bad”? It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that our habits around it are bad. Yes, we need to recycle, but we also need to reach out to the brands we love and ask them -- demand of them, really -- to use #SocialPlastic, which is ultimately what The Plastic Bank’s team makes with the plastic that’s being kept out of water ways when it is amassed by collectors.
Go ahead: Hop on Social Media and directly address the companies and brands we most use and say: "Hey @place brand here, here’s hoping you’re considering the use of #SocialPlastic."
Shaun will inspire you to think big -- really big -- there's just no way around that simple fact.