Imagine an island, roughly three times as big as France, made entirely of plastic waste. Unfortunately, this is not just an imagination; it's the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," one of the four major floating waste islands in our oceans. Each year, around 400 million tons of plastic are produced globally, and a significant portion of it ends up as waste shortly after use. To date, humans have generated over seven billion tons of plastic waste, with only nine percent being recycled. The remainder either gets incinerated, dumped in landfills, or discarded in the environment, including oceans. The result is devastating: by 2050, our oceans might contain more plastic than biological organisms.
The current scenario witnesses hundreds of thousands of marine mammals dying due to ingesting non-biodegradable plastic parts yearly. Over a million seabirds share a similar fate. According to Greenpeace, around 270 different species, including turtles, seals, fish, and crustaceans, are threatened by marine and coastal pollution. Plastic waste disrupts natural habitats, settling onto coral reefs and other marine ecosystems, hampering their colonization and thriving for nearly 500 years until it biodegrades. This crisis demands immediate attention and solutions.
Innovative solutions in blockchain & cryptocurrency
Recognising the urgency, the United Nations has outlined 17 sustainability goals to curb climate change and foster a greener, cleaner world for future generations. One such goal promotes sustainable consumption and production, urging nations to create conditions that facilitate waste recycling and enlighten consumers about sustainable consumption habits. However, achieving these goals necessitates more than pledges and regulations; it demands innovative solutions from the industry itself. One of the technologies that might lead to a new system is called blockchain. We know blockchains as the basis of cryptocurrencies – but it has to offer much more opportunities.
How could this work?
First: Both manufacturers and end-users should be profiting from a new system with utmost transparency and data security.
It may look like this: Manufacturers label their products or packaging with a QR code, which can be scanned using an app. Customers can then return the products to the nearest store indicated in the app, earning rewards in the form of a stable cryptocurrency while all information is stored in the blockchain.
The benefits for companies are obvious: They gain novel access to consumer goods and obtain valuable, real-time, tamper-proof data on every deposited product. This would align with a commitment to environmental conservation and the UN's sustainability goals, enabling them to demonstrate their ESG compliance with high transparency and verified data. Furthermore, such a system will also serve a social mission. Besides environmental protection, the system can aid in reducing poverty by providing a most cost-effective reward mechanism for waste return.
My personal take on this: Single-use plastics should ideally be a thing of the past. Waste management should be globally sustainable, eco-friendly, and socially responsible. The technology is ready. Let’s use it now!
Pascal Siegrist, Founder & CEO of Recyclium, a blockchain-based bounty system that tracks products and recyclables and allows them to be returned to producers while rewarding collectors. (https://recyclium.io)