Recycling to reduce plastic waste and-2

David Katz describes himself as a “Very solid C-student at school”. He laughs, “I was always distracted but that doesn’t mean I am not a learner.”

The entrepreneur has certainly learned enough to devise an ingenious way to save the planet. Two years ago he founded The Plastic Bank, a company devoted to, well, saving the planet. They do this by monetising plastic waste. “There’s actually a ton of value in it,” says David, “in fact, recycled plastic has more demand than supply.”

Paying with plastic

The company’s mission is social plastic, that is plastic whose value is transferred into the hands of the collector. It does this by working with organisations on the ground in places like Haiti to influence the volume of recyclables and increase the margin for the collector. For example, he says, “Cellphone minutes are a challenge, data is a challenge, power is a challenge. So when you bring in 20 bottles, which is a pound of plastic, you get an hour of wifi, or you get to charge your phone. You might live 100 km from family but not see them so you could bring in 20 bottles and Facetime your mother. These are all ways to be able to use plastic as a currency, allowing them to make the full margin and use the plastic to pay for the things they would use the money for.” Moreover, “Every time you buy one of our products it’s improving the ocean.”

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Katz sees the oceans’ problems first-hand from his shorefront home: “I have seen it continuing to degrade the ocean’s edge,” he says, “it has shown me that something has to be done and my eyes were open for a solution.” The way he sees it, “you have the option to sit and stew in the problem or you can look and say a solution is required. The same applies when you’re looking for a business idea. You say, ‘A problem? Awesome! How can I monetise that?’”

The Plastic Bank, says Katz, “has a triple bottom line [people, planet, profit]. He owns the company outright but, he laughs, “I just keep spending money on it.” Though there are problems in plastic sorting – “non-rigids are a bit of a challenge” – David says that when they’re not all mixed together, it’s not that hard to manage. “Almost all bottles are made from a PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) and they can be very easy to identify.”


Before The Plastic Bank, David ran his own restaurant for ten years and had businesses in commercial fitness and GPS tracking. His entrepreneurial beginnings could be, he says, traced back to when he was seven years old and his brother had the idea of opening a poster shop. The spark inside realised I could have control over my life and that’s where it all began,” he says, “I couldn’t be a passive participant. That was a core value.”

Knowing what makes you tick

This belief has led him to be involved in the Core Values Institute, which guides executives and corporations in the development of their strategic vision and core values. He says, “Values aren’t to be confused with virtues. Values are what’s important to you.” For him, says David, it’s bridging communities. “I take a fulfilment from it,” he says. Success comes, he says, when your values are aligned. David says he is totally in line with his: “I know who I am and what fulfils me. I have created an organisation that’s important and that is an absolute reflection of who I am. Every conversation I have excites me.  I wake up and think what amazement will happen today?

Riding the waves

DavidKatz_headshot_030_printWould The Plastic Bank work in developed countries? It’s already happening, says David, “In North America within the next few months every single Lush Cosmetics container will be made from social plastic. This is helping improve the life of the person who collected it and it’s kept it from the ocean.” He says he’d like to be a distribution point for one-for-one products too. “I love the idea that people can bring in 40 bottles and get a free pair of shoes.”

The company’s growing fast and currently searching for a CEO and COO: “There are all kinds of organisations that work with waste-picking but we go in with a way to make money. They are excited by that. It’s very easy for us to go in and influence 10,000 and 20,000 people because the business model is good. It’s a quick expansion and lately there are people who want to give me money, which is lots of fun.”

And, instead of trying (and sometimes failing) to manage a careful work-life balance, like all of us aspire to, David says he simply takes his family with him. “I take my children with me all the time,” he says, “they see that I am inspired. I had a nice speaking engagement in Toronto and I took my son. Imagine your son seeing a line of people who want to take their photo with you? It’s the best role model you can be.


Productivity hack

“My best lifehack is turning off all notifications on my phone and also my ringer. I used to be so distracted all the time. I am the classic entrepreneur with ADD. I was so in tuned into my phone I was like a penguin in a rookery, finding my chicks. I could tell my ringtone from a thousand others! Switching off allowed me to become present. I wouldn’t look at my phone. We are taking more photos today than ever. Stop pulling out your crazy camera. Stop living life through the lens of your phone's camera”

Favourite book

“I have been through hundreds of books but The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey is a seminal and critical piece to understand the beauty of life. I have been through it at least eight times and there’s always something to take away from it. You need to be full as a human before you can become successful in business. The more whole you are the more productive you become.”

Favourite quote

“’We have the opportunity to choose who our children’s parents will be"  Unknown, so David's claiming it!

Other Links

The Entrepreneurs' Organisation

Lush Cosmetics

Contact David:

connect with Plastic Bank on Facebook 

connect with Plastic Bank on Twitter @PlasticBank

connect with David on Twitter @DavidKatzEO

I really hope enjoyed the interview with David, whether you just read it here or got the full experience on the podcast. If you have any thoughts or comments about this episode, please do share them with us on Twitter or Facebook – we’d love to hear from you!