Photo: Daniel and Lisa during a clean-up on the beach in Sitges. Photo courtesy of Plastiks.
The clock struck 15:20 when Daniel and Lisa set off from Barcelona to Terras Altas, in Tarragona, Spain. It is Friday, and the tiredness is noticeable after an intense week of work, but even so, both are looking forward to what will happen the next two days in the Ecologyhub Ebre training. During two and a half hours, Daniel seems comfortable driving and chatting with Lisa, in the passenger seat. On her lap is their cat, who accompanies them every weekend they travel.
Daniel says that they decided to start Plastiks about a year ago and since then he has dedicated himself full-time to his business. Unlike other entrepreneurs, he decided to risk it all and emphasizes the idea that for something to work out well, it is necessary to be 100% dedicated to it. Lisa is working full-time on the project and studies nutrition remotely in her spare time.
In seeking to become an established company, despite the workload, both of them decide to invest their time in the programme to refocus and concentrate on the goals that have brought them this far.
The path towards a circular economy
This century’s challenge is shifting from an economic and production model that is leading to the scarcity of raw materials and climate and social crises. According to the UN, continuing with this economic model would require three planets by 2050, with an estimated world population equivalent to 9.6 billion people.
In this sense, the circular economy model proposes a framework of solutions based on three pillars: 1) reducing the consumption of materials and products, 2) reusing what we consume by increasing the life cycle of products and, finally, recycling waste for the reuse of materials.
UN figures estimate that a reduction in plastic production and consumption can prevent a third of plastic waste generation by 2040. At the same time, experts from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation state that “the circular economy proposes a model that leads to growth and employment without compromising the environment”.
This strategic commitment creates fertile ground for the creation of new jobs and opportunities to improve the material living conditions of vulnerable communities. The EU Action Plan estimates that the implementation of challenging measures around the Circular Economy could create 700,000 new jobs by 2030, mainly in the global south.
The best plastic packaging is the one that is not consumed. But what do we do with the plastic that is on the market?
Figures published by the UN show that “only 9 % of all plastic waste produced throughout history has been recycled”. The waste that is not recycled is incinerated, approximately 12%, while the remaining 79% is dumped in open dumps or in the sea. Considering that it takes 500 years for a plastic bottle to decompose and that the equivalent of up to 1200 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower reaches the ocean each year, it is imperative that action is taken to recover the plastic that is now found in rivers, beaches, and seas.
The United Nations Environment Programme states that more than 90% of the plastic pollution in the oceans comes from ten major rivers alone, spread across Africa and Asia. These alarming figures also mean great opportunities for many families who take action to clean up their territories and improve the lives of their communities. This directly impacts the improvement of the quality of the air they breathe, the recovery of biodiversity and the reappropriation of the territory for their families.
Plastiks works with communities directly affected by plastic waste. Their work focuses on connecting grassroots recovery projects with companies around the world. After a validation process, companies support the financing of the recovery of a certain amount of plastic.
The Global Plastic Innovation Network has as one of its main lines of action the search for innovative solutions to promote data transparency and enable traceability of the plastic recovery cycle. Plastiks’ proposal provides value in this regard, with verification per kilogram of plastic collected and processed while contributing to the financing of plastic waste disposal.
Currently, Plastiks has reached 12 countries with high pollution levels, contributing to the growth of 20 recovery ventures and managing to validate 1,182 tonnes of processed plastic in just one year. With the funding they have recently raised, Plastiks’ goal is to recover 11,000 tonnes by 2023.
With the Ecologyhub Ebre programme, Daniel and Lisa hope to find tools to achieve their goals. Using blockchain technology and NFT (Non-Fungible Token), Plastiks is one of the pioneering startups in the digitization of sustainability, which gives them great growth potential. However, they still have challenges to overcome: the digital gap remains a barrier to raising awareness and communicating the advantages that projects like Plastiks bring to the eco-social transition.