TRSW keynote: David Katz, CEO, Plastic Bank

By Andrew Pentol |

Travel Retail Sustainability Week began on Monday 19 April with an inspirational keynote from David Katz, entrepreneur, environmentalist and Plastic Bank CEO.

Travel Retail Sustainability Week (TRSW), the duty free and travel retail industry’s first industry event dedicated solely to sustainability, kicked-off yesterday (19 April) with an enthralling keynote session featuring David Katz, Founder & CEO of the Plastic Bank.

Entitled ‘New Horizons’, the session, which was kindly sponsored by Aer Rianta International, Brown-Forman, Coty and Mondelez, was moderated by Michael Barrett, Events and Corporate Social Responsibility, TRBusiness and Luke-Barras Hill, Acting Managing Editor, TRBusiness.

An environmentalist, keynote speaker and entrepreneur, Katz has built a recycling network through his The Plastic Bank Company that improves the lives of collectors in developing countries.

A VICIOUS CYCLE

Blockchain technology ensures traceability as ocean-bound waste is recycled into social plastic and sold to global partners including Henkel, SC Johnson, Carton Pack and Advansa.

[To view a full video of the keynote session, click below].

Setting the scene for the 199 session participants Katz said: “We can all acknowledge that this tremendous flow of material entering the ocean is affecting all aspects of life and that we are encountering the greatest rate of extinction ever.”

He added: “We are witnessing more than a garbage truck of plastic entering the ocean every minute and we have heard reports that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean by mass than fish. We are all witnessing the death of marine animals around the world.”

Outlining some of the elements which led to the creation of Plastic Bank, Katz explained: “It should be no surprise that most of the human plastic entering the ocean is coming from areas of extreme poverty.

“Over 80% of the plastic entering our marine ecosystem is coming from areas that don’t have clean water or sanitation. Children suffer from stunted growth as they don’t have enough nourishment in their home and are without clothes or shoes. It is no surprise that communities either burn materials or use waterways, canals or rivers to dispose of it somehow.

“These conditions led me to create the Plastic Bank, which is best expressed as a global chain of stores for the poor — stores where everything is available to be purchased using plastic as payment.”

David Katz: “We opened in Haiti and went to the Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil and Egypt. This year is Thailand, and we are also opening in Tanzania, Kenya and Cameroon. We of course have to be around the world as the ocean can’t wait.”

The Vancouver-based company, which was founded in 2013, offers school tuition, medical insurance, Wi-Fi, cooking fuel, clean water and many other things the poor can’t afford using plastic as payment.

“All the plastic we collect is social plastic, a material we then offer to great organisations around the world,” Katz outlined.

“We opened in Haiti and went to the Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil and Egypt. This year is Thailand, and we are also opening in Tanzania, Kenya and Cameroon. We of course have to be around the world as the ocean can’t wait.”

The keynote session on the first day of Travel Retail Sustainability week was sponsored by Aer Rianta International, Brown-Forman, Coty and Mondelez.

Asked by Co-Moderator Michael Barrett how DF&TR stakeholders can do their bit to stop ocean pollution, Katz highlighted a partnership between Plastic Bank, Proctor and Gamble and its Gillette brand and suggested brand activations could make a significant impact.

“Proctor and Gamble and Gillette have become powerful customers and created a whole new shaving line called Planet KIND. The handles of the razors are made of recycled material and the packaging came out of recycled material.

“Every Planet KIND product sold will prevent 10 plastic bottles from entering the ocean. This is a powerful brand activation which is doing amazingly well.”

Michael Barrett, Events and Corporate Social Responsibility, TRBusiness thanked all Travel Retail Sustainability Week Premium Partners at the start of the session.

Katz concluded by urging session participants to help fight plastic pollution in oceans and high poverty levels in developing countries.

“You don’t need to have all the answers, but what you do have is the ability to begin something. It may be something that won’t work in your business at this moment, but it might in the future. Also, you may know others who need social plastic as well.

“I can’t help but think you all know someone in your life who is looking for that change and to participate in fixing the world.”

For more information on Travel Retail Sustainability Week, including the pioneering Sustainability Pitch programme, click here.

 

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