Could Blockchain save the environment?

27 September 2019

According to US economists, by the end of the year, the level of plastic waste in the sea will be around 6.3 billion metric tonnes with an estimated value of 7.2 trillion dollars. By 2050, we will have over 12 billion metric tonnes of plastic worth 14 trillion dollars in our oceans, which means more plastic than fish, simply because over 90% of plastic ever made has never been recycled.

Over the last few years, brands, influencers, and environmental organisations raised some awareness about the incumbent danger for our planet. However, although our personal habits need to change, the way major companies produce their goods has not changed (or very little has been done) for the sake of profit, with the result that in spite of all our efforts, we have seen very little improvements.

A significant change can still come through technological innovations. Blockchain is one of them, not only because it can save a lot of paper, but because of its nature, it can actively help in the process of turning plastic from garbage to an economic asset, because this is one of the reasons why big companies are not so keen to recycle: it is (also) a matter of perception.

What can Blockchain do for the environment?

We spoke about the numerous Blockchain applications, and we already know that Blockchain can help us track a wide variety of items, and someone in the fashion industry is already doing it. Packaging is not an exception.

Blockchain provides all the tools to create some sort of item ID with information about the composition of the material used for that particular packaging, the ratio between new and recycled plastic, the source of all different kinds of plastic used, the method of manufacture, and the number of times it was recycled.

An interesting idea is tokenising plastic: giving plastic in exchange for tokens. There are already some projects using this business model, and they are getting very popular.

The Empower experience

The Empower foundation was founded in January 2018 with the mission of cleaning the ocean by building a circular economy system apt to incentivise collection and recycling of plastic waste.

In order to achieve this goal, Empower developed a system based on Blockchain in which people can basically trade plastic waste for tokens. Tokens can be exchanged with the most popular cryptocurrencies or fiat.

The system works with certified recycling stations where people and businesses can take their plastic waste. Before they leave the station, their plastic deposit is digitally registered on the blockchain and a code (and tokens) is given to the customer, who can use it to see where their plastic ends up.

The benefits are significant: the creation of a virtuous waste management system, a digital, paperless, trusted, and cost-effective procedure, and a lot of money saved for businesses that use recycled plastic.

If this model works, it can easily spread on a global scale, giving an important contribution to plastic waste and water pollution reduction.

At this moment, Empower are pioneers, but as it usually happens in the IT, pioneers become leaders, and the Blockchain can be the key to a massive change that could definitely improve our lives.

What are your thoughts about that? Do you think Blockchain could save the planet? Tell us your opinion!

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