We eat microplastics. Although we do not see them, when seafood and fish arrive at our table, they are silent to travel through our stomachs. It is not that the Mediterranean diet has gone crazy and its menu now includes a recurrent intake; but for fish and other animals are part of their daily diet. "It affects human beings because plastics absorb toxins. 100% of the mussels that we have analyzed contain microplastics. This pollution knows no borders. It also invades lakes, rivers, mountains and valleys, "says Tod Hardin, operations director of Plastic Oceans International. In this situation, several startups they have raised the flag in favor of the environment as the axis of the business.
Although there is no closed figure that quantifies how much plastic garbage travels on Earth, especially in the seas, most studies shuffle between eight and 15 million tons. An initiative that has been put to work to rebel against this contamination is led by David Katz, CEO and founder of Plastic Bank. With the help of blockchain and a system of tokens, monetizes and recycles the waste it collects in distributed facilities, especially in countries with high levels of poverty. "We allow the exchange of plastic for money, goods or cryptocurrencies. With our system, everything can be purchased using plastic waste. From school enrollment to health insurance, "adds Katz.
To better understand the operation of Plastic Bank, its founder sets the example of how they operate in Haiti, a country ravaged by an earthquake in 2010. The protagonist of its history is Lisa Nasis, a plastic collector who has turned this activity into its source from income. At the end of his working day, after going door to door collecting this waste, he goes to the startup to weigh and detail the quality of the collected. "We transfer the value of the plastic to an electronic savings account in which it revalues the price of the material. The social plastic is the bitcoin of the Earth and is available to everyone, "he explains.
The project undertaken by Kratz still has one more phase to close the circular economy model that advocates -and obtain profitability in its particular environmental struggle-. All the collected plastic is treated and recycled for later sale to third parties, such as Marks and Spencer, Shell and Henkel. This last organization, for example, has committed to annually use 100 million kilos of this "new" material. "If any of us buys shampoo or soap for clothes with social plastic packaging, we will be contributing indirectly to eliminate waste that goes to the sea and, at the same time, alleviate poverty"Ditch.
Algorithms that take advantage of marine currents
There are few doubts that the seas are one of the big losers of the use of single-use plastics, such as cotton swabs and containers. As the United Nations director of oceans Lisa Svensson said, we are facing a planetary crisis that ruins the marine ecosystem. To combat it, in 2012 The Ocean Cleanup was born, a startup American that promises to clean up to half of the plastic waste of the Pacific in five years based on algorithms, solar energy, ships, networks and marine currents. "The satellites help locate these wastes and the big data and the visualization of data facilitates that we understand better the gravity of the problem ", maintains Hardin.
The mix in a shaker of all these elements, between technological and classic, give meaning to The Ocean Cleanup. Its solution is based on a u-shaped network, about 600 meters long by three deep, which uses the circular marine currents and winds to collect all the discharged plastics. When it has reached its maximum capacity, ships pull on each end of this network and transport the waste to land for further recycling. But where do we place these barriers? "An algorithm determines the best locations to favor the movements of the currents autonomously. This allows us to control with information in real time to know the trajectory of the installation and its behavior ", they explain from the startup.
For the operation of this gear, already put into operation in the San Francisco bay – called System 001 -, previously tested in the North Sea and similar to the creation of a new coastline, no external power source is required . The installed electronic devices are nourished by solar radiation. Apart, with all the big data that analyze in the collection of waste, perfect the location algorithm and improve the technology needed to maximize the results. Seas and oceans have become a liquid terrain where different startups, helped by the digital transformation, have started their particular rebellion against the contamination of plastics and their business.
Apart from giving a new life to the plastic with its recycling, Tod Hardin, director of operations of Plastic Oceans International appeals to the supposed virtuosity of the circular economy so that this material stops being an environmental problem. In his opinion, if consumers stop using these single-use plastics, companies will change their business models and invest money in more advanced technologies that are a real alternative. "We are in favor of those who are employed in the long term. For medicine or automotive are fundamental. They are used properly and have a fundamental role for progress. The awareness must come in others, as in the packaging, "concludes Hardin.