The Plastic Bank

The Plastic Bank: Making plastic waste a currency to alleviate extreme poverty and ocean plastic

Port Au Prince, HaitiNorth Vancouver, Canadá
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

We make plastic waste a currency to alleviate global poverty. Collectors exchange waste plastic for cash & essential items. Brands purchase our recycled Social Plastic® for use in manufacturing. Over 1 million people have asked for brands to use Social Plastic®.

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, and too valuable to end up in the ocean.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

People see plastic as waste. Over 300 million tons of plastic is produced annually, yet only 5-10% gets recycled worldwide. In disadvataged regions it’s common to dump plastic into the streets and rivers as a means of disposal. Ocean plastic kills marine life & damages our ecosystem. Falling oil prices are causing global recycling rates to plummet. This directly harms the disadvantaged 'waste pickers' who collect 'commodity' plastic for a living.

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

TPB makes plastic waste a currency that can be exchanged to help lift people out of poverty by providing income and additional non-monetary life-improving items and services. The collected plastics are sorted and recycled into Social Plastic® flakes, which are sold by TPB and used as feedstock for manufacturing. 8 million tons of plastic garbage flows into the ocean each year. One cause is that disadvantaged communities have had no alternative to dumping plastic into the streets and pushing it into the rivers & ocean-bound waterways. The real problem is that plastic is seen as waste. Our Social Plastic® movement was designed to be a triple-bottom-line business solution to prevents the root cause of ocean plastic while reducing poverty.


Sustainia Top 10, RCBC Innovation Award, SALT #4 Most Compassionate Entrepreneur in the World (David Katz), Ashoka Emerging Innovator (Shaun Frankson)
Impact: How does it Work

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

In 2014 we received a request to partner with a charity called Executives Without Borders to improve & revive their recycling program in Haiti. The declining price of oil caused an unsustainable drop in the commodity price of recycled plastic that threatened the program & the livelihoods of the already impoverished Haitian recyclers. TPB is now operating in Haiti with a full time staff. We are reviving & expanding the program across Haiti. We introduced solar power to exchange both cash & non-monetary items such as cell phone charging, sustainable cooking briquettes, & soon WIFI & video calling. A partnership with Unilever would create a sustainable 3-5X increase in the recycler incomes. Our Haiti model will be replicated globally.

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 thousands Haitians. BY 2016 we anticipate recycling millions of KGs of plastic waste & improving the lives of tens of thousands through Social Plastic®. We will expand globally by 2017.

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

We are finalizing a franchise style expansion system to grow our Social Plastic® Recycling Markets exponentially. The existing million person consumer demand for Social Plastic® will continue to grow & multiply. By allowing the most disadvantaged to proser we will create a new middle class in many countries. Our programs also train people to collect plastics from business & households before they become waste, creating a new global micro-recycling economy. We created The Plastic Bank with the goal to impact over 1 billion people while 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. Our triple bottom line business model is sustained by the sale of our globally trademarked Social Plastic®. We act as a differentiated broker. When brands purchase our ethically sourced recycled plastic they are investing in social impact first & receiving the plastic after the social impact has been made. The larger our purchase orders, the faster we expand. We are economically designed to scale.

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

I am not aware of any direct global competition for Social Plastic® (as a differentiated recycled plastic with a direct and identifiable social impact). Globally there are small volume, mostly charitable, operations that recycle select plastic types at commodity rates. These solutions are currently in grave danger due to commodity pricing. Social Plastic® is not a commodity and does not plummet in value with falling oil prices. We do not compete with informal 'waste picker' organizations. Instead we identify champions in each region that we can partner with to enhance their impact.

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 & Social media 'movement' campaign that resulted in over 250 global media features including Forbes, TIME, & BBC. The Plastic Bank had over 1 million Facebook fans before they fully launched in Haiti. The real 'aha' movement came from ongoing partnership requests from over 75 different countries.


TPB was founded by experienced entrepreneurs David Katz & Shaun Frankson. We have designed a lean organization that will expand exponentially through a franchise model. We partner with local NGO's & recycling champions who are already improving lives through recycling. We have a full time staff in Haiti. Our Haitian area manager has an MBA from the USA. We have just hired a seasoned entrepreneur as our head of business development and will be adding a Harvard MBA COO and CTO in 2016. |David Katz – CEO| 
David has consulted globally with hundreds of businesses about the use and implementation of values-based leadership, business process, mobile workforce management and social responsibility. David is also the winner of the Entrepreneurs Organizations Global Citizen Award and recently ranked #4 on SALT’s 100 most compassionate entrepreneurs list ahead of Musk, Oprah, and Gates.
 After 10 successful years of business, David recently sold his GPS tracking technology company to focus on the growth of The Plastic Bank. |Shaun Frankson – VP & Strategist| 
Shaun is the co-founder and digital strategist behind The Plastic Bank. He is commonly known as a strategy guy and modern growth hacker. He was the recipient of the Eric C. Douglass award for philanthropic entrepreneurship and was recently named as an Ashoka Emerging Innovator. Shaun has made a career out of creating unique strategies that generate exponential results. He created the brand strategies to introduce Social Plastic® to the world, resulting in over 1 million supporters and 250 media features. He also created another million person social good “Problem Solvers” movement as an advisor and chief growth hacker to HeroX, the official spin-off of XPRIZE. |Sephora Pierre-Louis – Haiti Manager| 
Sephora has an MBA from Mills College in California and a Master’s Degree in Project Management at Quisqueya University in Haiti. 

She speaks French, Creole, English and Spanish. Sephora has over 15 years of experience with several companies including the United Nations Development Program as well as being a program advisor, business coach and trainer for non-profit organizations and USAID. |Tami Holzman - Business Development| An entrepreneurial business development executive with experience at a Fortune 100 firm as well as start-ups. Significant experience in the entertainment, sports and media industries focusing on new business development, content strategy and brand marketing. Tami led global business development for avVenta (now Accenture) and was responsible for relationships with Fortune 500 companies and C-level executives. Prior to avVenta Tami was founder and CEO of Holzman Management Group, a talent management company with a full-service entertainment and sports firm. Tami created and Executive Produced the critically acclaimed show “Super Agent” in conjunction with NBC Universal and the Spike Network. She is a seasoned entertainment executive having had development deals with top networks and studios that include NBC Universal, HBO, Fox Television Studios and the Fox Network. |Sean Macmillan - Communications & Changemaker| Sean found his path while working in the largest slums in Africa with a Micro-Finance Institution. He saw first hand the positive impact that entrepreneurs can create when given the right tools. Upon finishing his degree at the University of Edinburgh Sean set out to see the daily reality for those at the bottom of the pyramid; backpacking through dozens of developing countries. After years of running his own business and a stint in a tech start-up Sean is now supporting The Plastic Bank team in all areas of the business.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Ashoka contacted me directly.

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:


Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

at 21 a near death car accident revealed my calling as a strategy guy. I started creating companies with the sole purpose to get paid in experience.

At 23 I was one of the 150 students accepted into the Royal Roads University BCOM in entrepreneurial management program. In addition to completing the 2 year degree program (that is condensed into an accelerated 11 months), I recruited over 60 students to join me in a not-for profit consulting and business start up organization designed to get everyone paid in the unique relevant experience each student required. I was nominated for student leader of the year and received the Eric C. Douglass scholarship for showing the spirit of entrepreneurship with a philanthropic nature.

After graduating I partnered with my sister to create a nutritional consulting company. Simultaneously I was operating my own marketing services company with a focus on helping charities and other organizations create video driven websites. I also launched my own online TV series and website called Cool in Vancouver.

At 25 I leveraged my experience to become an intrepreneur and become VP of Marketing for a multimillion dollar company called Nero Global Tracking. By 26 I was the Vice President of that company and automated it to the point that the CEO, David Katz, no longer needed to show up to the office. Along with David, I co-founded The Core Values Institute to perform both personal and corporate core values training and consulting for entrepreneurs. This was in addition to our GPS Tracking company.

By 29 I intentionally automated myself out of Nero Global Tracking and, with David Katz, co-founded The Plastic Bank, a triple bottom line social enterprise that makes plastic waste a currency in developing countries to help reduce global poverty. I coined the term Social Plastic® and created the brand strategies to launch a Social Plastic® movement that gained over one million supporters and well over 250 media features before expanding globally. By 31 I signed onto my first equity stake Board of Advisors position with HeroX, an official spin off of the XPRIZE. Within months of joining HeroX we created a million person Problem Solvers movement in which every day people can solve game changing challenges.

I am currently writing a book, speaking and performing work shops on business strategy. In December 2015 (2 weeks after this application deadline) I will be performing a custom workshop on gamification for Unilever's Innovation Team in London England.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

In Haiti we are partnered with Executives Without Borders (EWB) and Ecole Supérieure d'Infotronique d'Haïti, (ESIH).

EWB is a charity that entered Haiti after the earthquake to start a plastics for cash program. In 2014 EWB reach out to TPB requesting a partnership to help transition the program into a self-sustaining model that could withstand falling oil prices. We have since taken over the operations of the program in Haiti to revive, sustain and improve it. In addition to our own locations we are successfully transforming EWB's Ramase Lajan centers into Social Plastic Recycling Markets.

ESIH is a technology school we have partnered with to connect local Haitian students with our technology related social impact. We partnered with the University of British Columbia to create and open source a new technology to turn plastic waste into 3D printing filament. They will be running our technology in Haiti to allow our collectors to exchange plastic waste for 3D printed items. We are working with ESIH to build a platform to source the needs of our disadvantaged collectors and allow the world to provide 3D printable solutions through a collaborative crowd sourced platform.

We currently have a partnership with USAID and are currently finalizing a partnership with Word Vision. Details will be released once we have permission to do so.

We have had over 400 partnership requests the represent over 75 different countries. We are in the process of creating a franchise process to exponentially speed up our rate of expansion.