The Plastic Bank

Congratulations! This Entry has been selected as a semifinalist.

The Plastic Bank: Making plastic waste a currency to reduce global poverty

PeruPort Moody, Canada
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We are making plastic waste a currency that can be exchanged for the items needed to lift someone out of poverty & become entrepreneurial. Our recycled plastic is sold to companies as Social Plastic™ allowing consumers to help reduce poverty and plastic waste worldwide through their purchases

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if plastic waste was too valuable to be seen as waste.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Over 300 million tons of plastic is produced annually, yet only 5-10% gets recycled worldwide. In developing countries it’s common practice to dump plastic waste into the streets and rivers as a means of disposal. Ocean plastic kills marine life & damages our ecosystem. These same areas with beaches covered in plastic waste commonly have an abundance of poverty. Most of the 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day lack basic necessities

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The Plastic Bank is making mixed plastic waste a currency that can be exchanged for hope and opportunities. By revealing value in plastic, we make plastic waste too valuable to throw away or leave on the ground. The plastic bank provides a market driven strategy for reducing both plastic pollution and poverty through a self-sustaining business model that also sustains the foundations that run it as a franchise system. Harvesters collect mixed plastic waste and/or set up micro-recycling programs. They deposit the collected plastic at The Plastic Bank. The plastic is sorted by type, weighed & credits are added based on the total weight of plastic. The harvester uses those credits as currency towards necessities & 3D printing services.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Picture Maria, a single mother who previously lived on less than $1 a day in Lima Peru. She now collects the endless plastic waste that covers her local beach to exchange at The Plastic Bank. She has received clothing, tools, supplies, & even a water filtration system. Collectively these items saved hours per day. Maria was able to start her own manufacturing business debt free by 3D printing her inventory one at a time at The Plastic Bank. She now sells custom 3D printed cell phone cases & discovered that the addition of "Made in Peru" could triple her profits. She now employes 5 women from her village to collect the plastic for her. They even set up micro-recycling programs at several local shops to collect it before it becomes waste.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Since our founding in 2013 we have been raising awareness about ocean plastic & global poverty through our million person Social Plastic® movement. In 2014 we recycled 20,000 lbs of shoreline plastic. We created an open source technology to turn plastic waste into 3D printing filament. In 2014 we sorted and recycled the shoreline plastic to create the world's first 3D printed item made from ocean plastic. LUSH cosmetics became the first company to purchase our recycled Social Plastic® and use it in their Sea Spray bottle line. Next we set up a pilot project in Peru to learn about the needs of a 'waste picker' first hand. In 2015 we finalized our partnership to revive a program that impacts over 1,000 Haitians. BY 2016 we anticipate recycling over 50 million lbs of plastic waste & improving the lives of thousands of Haitian's through Social Plastic®. We will expand globally by 2017.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Within 5 years The Plastic Bank will be in every country with an abundance of plastic waste and poverty. Social Plastic® will be utilized by numerous global brands providing social impact while meeting the multi-million person consumer demand. We hope to turn The Plastic Bank into a platform for empowering global micro-entrepreneurs to ascend from poverty and solve local problems through entrepreneurship. We created The Plastic Bank with the goal to impact over 1 billion people while creating a system to prevent plastic waste from entering the ocean.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

To date The Plastic Bank has been self funded by CEO David Katz. Our triple bottom line business model is sustained by the sale of our globally trademarked Social Plastic®. When brands purchase our ethically sourced recycled plastic they are investing in social impact first and receiving the plastic after the social impact has been made.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

On a global scale there has been various failed attempts to implement national recycling programs. In Lima competition includes black market trash collectors who look for plastic bottles. Additional organizations such as The Nuevo Mundo, PRISMA, & Ciudad Saludable are currently in operation with the goal of increasing the volume of recycled plastics. Some key differentiation points of The Plastic Bank model includes a non-monetary token exchange system (credits), accepting ALL types of plastic, exchange for 3D printing, and branded Social Plastic collected with a global scale of volume.

Founding Story

In March 2013 David Katz made a phone call to Shaun Frankson to announce an epiphany. "I've figured out our next business. It's called The Plastic Bank. We reveal value in plastic and it becomes too valuable to be treated as waste. We make plastic waste a currency to reduce global poverty. I don't know how, but we'll figure it out." Shaun coined the term Social Plastic® and launched a global PR and Social media 'movement' campaign that resulted in over 250 global media features including Forbes, TIME, & BBC. The Plastic Bank had almost 1 million Facebook fans before they fully launched in Haiti. The real 'aha' movement came from the first partnership requests from over 50 different countries.


The Plastic Bank was founded by David Katz and Shaun Frankson. We have intentionally designed a lean organization that acts as an empowerment platform for the world's disadvantaged. We scale our global expansion by partnering with local NGO's and recycling champions who are already improving lives through recycling.
About You
The Plastic Bank
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name

The Plastic Bank

Organization Country

, BC, Port Moody

Country where this project is creating social impact

, LI

How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

Your Solution
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

When you first see a beach with more plastic waste than visible sand it's heart breaking.

We started learning about ocean plastic in the gyres & albatross birds that are choking on ocean plastic more than 2400 miles from a large landmass at Midway Atoll

The aha moment was the simple concept that if we can reveal value in plastic, it will become too valuable to throw away, let sit on the beach, or float in the ocean.

If we reveal value in people, we can can unleash the creativity of the disadvantaged and increase the number of worldwide entrepreneurs who are contributing to solving the worlds problems through sustainable business.

Select Sector(s): To which of Unilever's categories of sustainability does your solution apply?

Waste, Supply Chain Micro-entrepreneurs.

Measurable Impact
Audience: Who have you identified as your customers/recipients and why? How will you get your solution to them or engage them in your initiative?

The harvesters for The Plastic Bank are the disadvantaged people living in areas with an abundance of poverty & plastic waste. These people are smart, creative and hard working. They are an untapped resource for innovation and creativity.

The solution is implemented as a turnkey franchise model by the foundations that specialize in poverty alleviation. These foundations have localized knowledge and existing programs to attract & educate the plastic harvesters.

The Pilot is in Lime Peru.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?

To date we have finished the business model, recruited our team & made the required partnerships to recycle mixed plastic.

We are currently completing a feasibility test by sorting & recycling 100,000lbs of shore line plastic collected August 2013 that will be recycled December 2013.

In April 2014 the pilot location will launch in Lima Peru. By year end 2014 we estimate recycling 1,144 tons of plastic waste through 5 Locations. By year end 2015 we estimate recycling 12,891 tons of plastic waste through 29 locations in multiple countries.

In 5 Years we estimated exchanging over 155,840 tons of plastic waste for hope & opportunity. Every pound of plastic contributes to improving the lives of the disadvantaged.

Our franchise model will have worldwide impact.

We are leading a movement for consumers to purchase Social Plastic that improves lives while cleaning the planet.

Growth, Finance & Leadership
Scaling the Solution: How do you intend to scale your activities over the next two years (e.g., reach new markets, diversify solutions, etc.)? What will make this possible?

We have already established recycling partners around the world to recycle ALL types of plastic.

We have recruited an international advisory team of experts in plastic recycling & poverty solutions. Both founders have extensive experience with international cloud based technology.

The Plastic Bank is designed to be a turn key franchise model which foundation can utilize to provide a sustainable revenue stream while helping to reduce plastic waste & poverty. Once they have exchanged a certain volume of plastic we arrange to pick it up and pay a franchise fee per lbs exchanged.

The system to facilitate the first location will be replicated to expand worldwide. After Lima we will expand across Latin America than the rest of the world.

Financial Sustainability: What is your business model to ensure financial sustainability?

The Plastic Bank is a triple bottom line business with a self-sustaining revenue model. All plastic collected through The Plastic Bank is Social Plastic. Social Plastic is recycled plastic that improved the life of a disadvantaged person. Social Plastic is sold to companies at a premium above the market rate of recycled plastic. They pay the premium to promote and be included in the story of helping to reduce poverty & plastic waste worldwide.

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

2007-2008 Created a 60 person not-for-profit consulting & student business start up organization receiving the Eric C. Douglass scholarship for Philanthropic Entrepreneurship

2008 - 2011 Founded Frankson Enterprises to provide online marketing & consulting services to various social businesses

Since 2009 Vice President of Nero Global Tracking -

Since 2012 - Co-founder of The Core Values Institute -