To turn the tide on ocean plastic and help alleviate poverty on a global scale, Plastic Bank looked for technology and expertise that could allow it to innovate fast and inspire trust.
Plastic Bank is building the gold standard of ethical, traceable, and exponentially scalable supply chains using IBM® technology, backed by agile development from IBM Business Partner Cognition Foundry.
Thousandsof people in developing nations empowered to escape poverty
Amplifiedpositive impact on people’s lives through new community initiatives
Empowersorganizations to neutralize their plastic footprint, benefiting the environment
Business challenge story
Taking on a global challenge
Plastic Bank started in 2013 with a simple, compelling concept: clean up the oceans by paying people to collect plastic waste – which also generates income to help them improve their lives. Today, about every second, Plastic Bank’s members collect another kilogram of plastic waste that would otherwise be bound for the ocean.
Most importantly, Plastic Bank makes a dramatic social contribution, as Shaun Frankson, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, explains: “For example, one of our members in Bali called Made Wangi puts food on the table and pays for school for her four children by collecting plastic waste. Vicky, a street sweeper in the Philippines, takes pride in cleaning up her community and making it safer by joining us. She told us that gaining a digital savings account along with a Plastic Bank cart and sacks has made a huge difference to the challenges she faces doing her job every day.”
High-growth, positive impact
Plastic Bank is building new ethical recycling ecosystems in many coastal communities. The organization set up its first branches in Haiti, Philippines and Indonesia, and launched operations in Brazil and Egypt recently. Members who collect plastic are rewarded with digital tokens that can be exchanged via the Plastic Bank app for necessities such as groceries, cooking fuel, school tuition, health insurance and more. The processed ‘Social Plastic’ is then re-integrated into products and packaging as part of a closed-loop supply chain.
Today, Plastic Bank has completed over 100,000 transactions through approximately 280 locations – with exponential growth on the horizon. As it grows, Plastic Bank seeks to maximize its positive impact on the communities in which it is active and to build new partnerships.
Frankson continues, “Alongside our agreements with global brands such as SC Johnson, Henkel, Aldi, dm-drogerie markt, and Carton Pack, we recently agreed a partnership with Gojek. As one of the world’s biggest digital payment providers, Gojek is going to help us phase out cash payments in Indonesia, an approach we want to replicate globally.”
Frankson elaborates, “We’re entering a rapid growth phase, and it’s vital that we’re ready. Our model hinges on trust and transparency. Our members’ livelihoods depend on them being able to reliably save and redeem their digital tokens locally. We can only monetize plastic waste if we can recycle it effectively. Soon the Plastic Bank platform will expand to become a global purpose platform for any person on the planet to make meaningful contributions towards stopping ocean plastic.”
Frankson explains, “To bring our global ambitions to life, we need to scale up our systems and processes without ever compromising on our principles. At the same time, we’re identifying new ways to serve communities and benefit the environment, which means adding new features and functions to the Plastic Bank app continually.”
Leaping over obstacles
Powering the Plastic Bank revolution across the world is IBM Blockchain running on a hybrid cloud infrastructure, which is based on an IBM LinuxONE platform connected to the IBM Cloud™. The environment was built and is managed by IBM Business Partner Cognition Foundry, which gives visionary startups access to enterprise-class resources.
“Since we met, Cognition Foundry believed in our mission and understood how to make it happen from a technology perspective,” comments Frankson. “They saw that IBM Blockchain could give us the transparency we were looking to make our hallmark, while the combination of IBM LinuxONE and IBM Cloud enable truly global scale. We celebrate the fact that we’re powered by IBM technology, as we feel that gives us a trust stamp that resonates with major partners such as Gojek.”
Working with Cognition Foundry, Plastic Bank created a proprietary Blockchain platform that secures every transaction and provides real-time data visualization. It enables a certified audit trail across the entire value chain, from the moment a member brings plastic waste to a branch to the reintegration of Social Plastic into a new product. Plastic Bank meets with Cognition Foundry weekly to collaboratively design enhancements to the Plastic Bank app and the supporting infrastructure systems.
Ron Argent, CEO and Founder of Cognition Foundry, explains, “We’re developing the app continually in an agile way, issuing a new release every two to four weeks. To augment the app, we’re investigating the use of AI [artificial intelligence] and deep learning.”
Frankson adds, “Cognition Foundry is always there to translate our complex design requests into code. Together we are customizing our entire platform for multiple user types, in multiple languages around the world. The talent at Cognition Foundry has allowed me to design our features and road map without any limitations, which is a core requirement for our vision. The Cognition Foundry team knows how to get the best out of the powerful, flexible IBM infrastructure to help us achieve goal after goal.”
Delivering tangible impact
Plastic Bank is seeing its efforts make a difference to oceans and people around the world, and is taking the opportunity to do more for the communities in which it operates.
“In Haiti, we connected with a woman named Lise Nassisse, who was widowed after the 2010 earthquake. Illiterate and with no bank account, she struggled to find work. Now Lise pays for rent, food and school tuition for her seven kids through her work with Plastic Bank. When our managers in the region realized that she and many members like her couldn’t read and write, we launched a literacy program as part of our members empowerment programs. In doing this, we’re giving people like Lise more of a voice in their communities,” explains Frankson.
“Backed by scalable IBM infrastructure, Plastic Bank is setting substantial growth targets. We’re expecting to increase our locations from 280 to 1,000 by the end of 2020. We are planning for over 1 million branches around the world, bringing us closer to our goal of eradicating ocean plastic. We have no doubt that IBM technology can help us get there.”
For companies that use plastic in their manufacturing or packaging, Plastic Bank offers them the chance to “go plastic positive”. This ensures that an equivalent amount of plastic is recovered to that used in production. In doing so, they neutralize their product’s plastic footprint and, further, help improve lives and uplift communities while cleaning the environment. Plastic Bank offers participants a personalized dashboard that shows verified data on their impact.
Frankson concludes, “With IBM technology, we don’t have to promise transparency—we can guarantee it. And we can keep looking for ways to do more for the world, confident that we’ve got the infrastructure and development partner to roll them out quickly and effectively.”
About Plastic Bank
Plastic Bank has a mission: eliminate ocean plastic by bringing a billion people together to monetize waste while enhancing lives. Established in 2013, the organization has won multiple humanitarian awards for its work to reduce environmental damage and poverty around the world.
Take the next step
To learn more about IBM LinuxONE, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/linuxone
Founded in 2016, Cognition Foundry is passionate about changing the world for the better. It does this by helping companies with visionary ideas to access the resources they need to have a sustainable and lasting impact.