Empower: Creating a global solution to the plastic waste problem by incentivising clean-ups

Norwegian company Empower is building a global plastic waste ecosystem based on the same philosophy as the Norwegian bottle deposit system, incentivising the clean-up of plastic everywhere.

Empower has devised a system which allows people to exchange plastic waste for tokens. The tokens can in turn be exchanged for money or used to pay for plastic clean-up in other locations. Collectors get paid a small amount of between 15 and 30 cents depending on the size of the plastic bottle returned.

The system lets anyone deliver plastic waste at certified recycling stations. Blockchain technology makes it possible to distribute tokens anywhere in the world, securely and without any intermediaries, and so ensuring that tokens for plastic are securely awarded and used.

The plastic waste is digitally registered at collection, allowing for a transparent and traceable waste management system where everyone can see where the collected plastic ends up.

Popularised by bitcoin, blockchain is a transparent, secure and decentralised information storage and transmission technology. It functions as a digital register of exchanges, which are unalterable and verifiable by all the users in the same group. It also supports the spread of new sustainable practices in collaborative consumption or the sharing economy.

Empower believe that by giving financial rewards in return for the deposit of plastic waste they can both stop leakage of plastic into the environment and cost-efficiently incentivise the collection of leaked waste.

Empower say: “Our solution is based on the philosophy and success of the Norwegian plastic bottle deposit system (which ensures 97% of bottles being recycled). This turns the return rate of plastic waste upside down. By giving plastic a value we incentivise people to clean it up and deposit the waste instead of throwing it in nature. That way we both close the tap and clean it up.”

Since launching in January 2018, Empower has already collected more than 2,000 kilograms of plastic waste.

Several clean-up operations have already been organised in different countries including Norway, India, Sri Lanka, and Laos, in cooperation with NGOs and local authorities who recover the waste collected and ensure that it is properly recycled. Clean-ups have taken place on beaches, in cities and even in the jungle.


Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com



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