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Vancouver-based social enterprise Plastic Bank wins big at COP21

Vancouver-based social enterprise Plastic Bank won the Sustania award at the COP21 Paris climate talks in Paris.  The award is based on 10 top  sustainability solutions and projects from around the world, from which one winner is selected.

The top honours this year went to Canada's Plastic Bank, an enterprise that allows people to collect plastics and bring it to a Plastic Bank facility where it can be recycled and repurposed, and receive goods and tools in exchanged. Other innovative projects included SunCulture, solar-powered irrigation systems developed in the U.S. and based in Kenya, as well as green bonds financing climate change preparedness in Johannesburg. 

Plastic Bank spokesperson Sean Macmillan said the inspiration for the project came the widespread problem of plastic pollution in the marine environment: today, an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic are floating through the world's oceans, such that certain sections are known as a "plastic soup." 

"The inspiration for The Plastic Bank comes from our desire to keep plastic out of the ocean," said  Macmillan. "When we really examined the ocean plastic problem, we found that most of that garbage — over 8 million tons per year — originates on the land and is then pushed out to sea from the beaches and waterways."  

"Our goal is to prohibit the flow of plastic from ever entering the ocean by revealing the value in plastic throughout the developing world. When people can exchange plastic waste as a currency, it becomes too valuable to throw away."
As for representing Vancouver on the world stage in Paris, Macmillan said the west coast city — which aims to transition to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050 — is a "a beautiful environment for innovation and that has really allowed The Plastic Bank to flourish."

We endeavour to continue raising Vancouver's profile as a global center for social innovation," he said. 

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