Canadian Entrepreneurs David Katz and Shaun Frankson are on a mission to tackle poverty and plastic pollution in one fell swoop. Their startup Plastic Bank recognizes that many areas affected by plastic pollution are also home to large numbers of people struggling to make ends meet. Their ‘Social Plastic’ model turns plastic into currency, rewarding the work involved in cleaning up the environment and stopping plastics from ending up in the sea. Read on to find out about their pilot project in Peru.

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Inhabitat readers are regularly reminded of the seemingly insurmountable problem of plastic pollution via reports of huge swirling ocean gyres and the horrific, often deadly effects on unsuspecting marine animals caught up in our rubbish. With over 1 trillion plastic bags still produced globally each year, it’s clear the solution requires action to stop new plastics being produced plus increasingly sophisticated recycling initiatives.

Related: Infographic: How Plastic Bags Are Destroying Our Planet

Businessman and scuba diver David Katz was motivated by seeing beaches in Malaysia which appeared to be made up of more plastic than sand. He points out that pound for pound, plastic is more valuable than steel. The issue, however, is finding a way to sort the plastic for recycling.

At present, only two percent of the Peruvian waste stream is recycled. This figure is set to improve when May 2014 sees the official launch of the first Plastic Banks in Colombia and Peru. Plastic Bank travelled to Peru and Columbia in March 2014 and found partners and communities with a strong desire to get the idea off the ground. At Plastic Bank centers, local people will be able to exchange recyclable plastics for credits that buy basic necessities and even use 3D printers to create the tools they need.

Related: Marcus Thymarks Open Source Filamaker Shreds and Recycles Plastic for 3D Printing

The founder’s vision is that wherever there is poverty and waste plastic in the world, there will soon be a Plastic Bank. From next month, the first armies of plastic collectors and sorters will be mobilized by the scheme to start improving the local environment, preventing plastics from reaching the sea and improving living conditions in poverty stricken regions. The next stage is to increase demand for Social Plastic, encouraging businesses that use plastic to make the switch. You can get involved by joining the Social Plastic Movement and help demonstrate the demand for socially and environmentally aware plastic to be used in preference to the production of tonnes of unwanted new plastic.

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Via Mother Nature Network