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Join host Paul Shapiro as he talks with some of the leading start-up entrepreneurs and titans of industry alike using their businesses to help solve the world’s most pressing problems.

May 15, 2020

In many countries, walking down city streets vividly brings to life two serious problems: plastic pollution and poverty. While there are charities trying to address both of these concerns, serial entrepreneur David Katz in 2013 thought there was an opportunity to marry the two issues and build a profitable business out of it. The result: Plastic Bank.

Today, there are tens of thousands of low-income people in countries from Haiti to Egypt who are collecting plastic refuse from waterways and other polluted areas, bringing it to a Plastic Bank collection center, and getting credit via a smartphone app that they can then go spend on their needs. Already, the company collects about 50,000 plastic bottles per 45 minutes.

Rather than viewing those bottles as plastic “waste,” David thinks of them as “social plastic,” which he helps convert into materials that Plastic Bank then sells to major plastic users. 

Just how much can Plastic Bank get for all that social plastic? David says the company is projecting in 2020 annual revenue of $65 million.

As David puts it in the interview, charities look at money and ask, “How do I deplete it as slowly as possible and make an impact?” Entrepreneurs look at money and ask, “How do I multiply it as quickly as possible and make an impact?”

Discussed in this episode