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Is monetizing waste the secret to ending plastic pollution?

MD Staff

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David Katz is founder and CEO of the Plastic Bank, a company that aims to stop plastic pollution by turning waste into currency. In areas with official stores, collectors can turn in plastic waste and receive cash or credit to an online account, which can then be used to purchase everything from insurance and phones to cooking fuel and stoves. We talked with Katz about why making plastic valuable can help stop it from entering the ocean while also reducing poverty.

There are many companies and organizations working to end pollution and poverty. What makes the Plastic Bank different?

It’s estimated that there are over 150 million tons of plastic in the ocean, with a garbage truck of plastic entering the ocean every minute. There isn’t a single solution, and I think it’s important to communicate that we need an army of people to solve this issue. What makes us unique is that we recognize the value in the 8.3 trillion kilos of plastic that’s ever been produced, almost all of it still here as waste. It’s difficult to estimate, but well under 500 billion could alleviate all forms of poverty around the world. And if we take that 8.3 trillion kilos of plastic at roughly 50 cents per kilo, we’re unleashing a 4 trillion-dollar market opportunity for the world.

How do you put a value on plastic waste?

We give plastic value by using it as money. Our collection centers accept it as a currency in return for goods and services, and we sell that as a raw material into manufacturing, closing the loop in the circular economy. I like to talk about this parable of acres of diamonds. If you’re walking over diamonds, and there’s no bank, no store, nothing you can do with them, they stay on the ground as rocks. We give value to plastic and get if off the ground by accepting it as a form of currency. Once we do that it’s not litter. It’s cash. No one throws cash on the ground.

Why does this model work?

Our model works because we don’t differ from the traditional recycling industry. In fact, we want to be world’s largest recycling company. What makes us unique is we’re recycling for the masses, cutting out the middleman and ensuring the poor make the most. Additionally, when plastic is of value and being collected, it’s easier to recycle, because it doesn’t collect the waste and degrade like it traditionally would sitting in the canals or entering the ocean and floating back to shore.

There is demand for our product because we have our own category, Social Plastic, which is certified to have been contributed or sourced directly from the Plastic Bank. We’ve already partnered with several companies; Marks & Spencer, Henkel, Shell. Our customers are most enlivened by knowing that it is not just recycled material. That it’s a material with value that is transferred through lives.

Additionally, we are a for-profit business. We are focused on profitability and providing our product at the lowest possible cost, period. Non-profits deplete money as slowly as possible. For-profits multiply the same pool of money as quickly as possible. It’s been proven that for-profit has the greatest opportunity for impact. Both good and bad, by the way. But put to the force of good, it’s unlimited.

Where are you located and what are plans for expansion?

We’ve been operating successfully in Haiti since 2015, and even have collection locations in schools so people can pay for their tuition directly. We expanded to the Philippines in 2016 and one of our global partners, Shell Energy, has a thousand stores at gas stations in the country that now also function as Plastic Bank collection locations. Staff have been hired for an expansion into Brazil and a philanthropist is sponsoring our entry into Indonesia. Plans are also in the works for Ethiopia and the horn of Africa, as well as India. We’re growing exponentially.

We probably get ten to twenty requests a day from people around the world asking for us to come into their community. There is a strong demand because we are a conduit for change. We’ve created an application so that anyone in the world can create their own recycling infrastructure wherever they are. They just need a collector, a redemption location, a collection location, a recycler, and a courier. Five simple easy components to create. We just need to oversee a few things and have someone in the country to authenticate the social nature, making sure children are not employed and things like that. But we provide a very simple way for anyone in the world to create a social plastic ecosystem.

What is your end goal?

Our goal is to monetize waste. To create a globally recognizable, tradeable currency for the planet. We need to eliminate the word waste, waste pickers, those things. We are creating an ecosystem that will ignite a social plastic revolution, that unites and enrolls humanity for local action that creates global impact.

UN Environment

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Economy

The impact of US-China Trade war

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It is highly unlikely, that any tangible solution to the Trade war between Beijing and Washington will emerge in the short run. In May 2019, Trump increased the tariffs on commodities worth 200 Billion USD, from 10% to a whopping 25%. So far, US has imposed tariffs of about 250 Billion USD on China. While China, has retaliated with tariffs on US goods estimated at well over 100 Billion USD (110 Billion.)

It would be pertinent to point out, that trade disputes have not been restricted only to Washington and Beijing.  Imposition of tariffs has been a bone of contention with US allies including Japan.

Off late, trade issues have resulted in major differences between New Delhi and Washington. Even though there are convergences between both countries on numerous strategic issues, resolving the differences between both sides on trade related matters is likely to be an onerous responsibility.

 In response to tariffs imposed by Washington, New Delhi retaliated, and has imposed tariffs, estimated at 200 Million USD, on 29 commodities (including Apples, Almonds and Chickpeas). India’s decision was a response to US’ decision to impose tariffs, of 10% and 25% on Aluminium and Steel in May 2018. Last year, New Delhi refrained from imposing tariffs, but did raise import taxes on a number of US goods to 120%, after Washington declined to exempt New Delhi from higher steel and aluminium tariffs. The key propelling factor for India’s recent imposition of tariffs was the US decision to  scrap the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for India from June 5, 2019. India benefitted immensely from this scheme, as it allowed duty-free exports of upto $5.6 billion from the country.

Pressure on Trump

Even though no solution is in sight, there are a number of lobbies in the US, especially Trade groups and US businesses which have been repeatedly urging the Trump Administration to find a solution to the current impasse with China.

Only recently for instance, 600 companies, including Walmart in a letter  to the U.S. President Donald Trump urged him to resolve trade disputes with China, stating that tariffs were detrimental to the interests of American businesses and consumers. The letter was sent as part of the ‘Tarriffs Hurt the Heartland’ campaign.

To underscore the detrimental impact of trade wars on the American economy some important estimates were provided. The letter stated that tariffs of upto 25% on 300 billion USD worth of goods, could lead to the loss of 2 million jobs. Costs for an average American family of 4 would also rise to an estimated 2000 USD, if such tariffs were to be imposed.

Reports indicating the challenges to the US economy and FDI from Chinese companies in US

A number of surveys and reports illustrate the profound challenges which the US economy is facing as well as a drop in FDI from China.

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index also revealed a drop in consumer sentiment from 100 in May to 97.9 in June. This was attributed to trade wars between China and the US.

According to a survey released by the China General Chamber of Commerce USA, investment by Chinese companies in the United States has witnessed a significant decline since 2016 ( including a sharp drop in 2018 and early 2019)

A number of important events have been held recently, where efforts were made to draw more Chinese investments to the US. One such event was the Select USA Summit. Speaking at the Summit, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stated:

‘We welcome investment from any place as long as it’s investment that poses no challenges for national security,”

US states and FDI

What was clearly visible at the Select USA Summit was the fact, that a number of US states pitched for expanding economic ties with China, and drawing greater Foreign Direct Investment.

The state of North Carolina sought to attract investments in areas like IT, Aviation and biotech. The US headquarters of Lenovo are in the state of Carolina. Trump’s trade wars have hit the state in a big way, and one of the sufferers have been Soy bean farmers. As a result of a 25 percent imposition of tariffs the price of a bushel of Soy bean has dropped to 8 USD, from 10 USD in 2018.

 Other US states brought to the fore the impact of tariffs on their respective economies. According to a senior official from the state of Louisiana for instance, Don Pierson, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development the state it has suffered immensely as a consequence of the imposition of tariffs. Agricultural commodities from Middle America to China are imported through export terminals in Louisiana. Pierson said that the agricultural economy of the state, as well as the logistics economy of the state have taken a hard hit as a consequence of the trade wars. Pierson also spoke about the possibility of exporting LNG from Louisiana to China. Major investments in the state of Louisiana include Yuhuang Chemical Group (Shandong’s) decided to invest US$1.85 billion in a methanol production complex (this was one of the largest Chinese direct investments in US). Wanhua Chemical Group invested over 1 Billion (1.2) USD in a chemical manufacturing complex in South Eastern Louisiana

A number of Chinese companies have also begun to realise, that there is need to adopt a nuanced approach too are still tapping certain US states for investment.

Another important event was the Select LA Summit. The Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Lenny Mendonca, chief economic adviser to the California governor assured overseas investors of all possible support from the town of LA, as well as the state of California.

Impact of trade disputes and Washington’s stance vis-à-vis Huawei

US States and Chinese Provinces have been at the forefront of improving economic ties between both countries. Both are likely to suffer as a consequence of not just the trade war between both countries, but also the US ban on Huawei. The tech company, according to a report published in 2016, contributes 7% of the GDP of the town of Shenzhen (Guangdong Province). Affiliates of Huawei provide employment to an estimated 80,000 people while a research facility in a nearby city of Dongguan, provides employment to well over 3,000

Conclusion:

In conclusion, it is important for all stakeholders, not just businesses from both countries, to play their role in resolving economic and technological disputes between China and the US.  It is also important for Chinese Provinces as well as US states to play a pro-active role in reducing tensions. Both governments while realising the importance of federating units have set up official dialogues and set up other mechanisms for sub-national exchanges. It is important that these platforms now contribute towards reducing the divergences between both countries. While all eyes are on the political leadership of both countries, it is important to realise that the stakeholders in the US-China relationship are not restricted to Beijing and Washington DC.

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Economy

The Game of Tariffs

Sabah Aslam

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Adam Smith is considered the father of economics. Back in 18th century, he presented the concept of protectionism, which was given to promote the local industry. Nevertheless, in 21stcentury, the world is facing its repercussions.

It is time that the world should be well concerned by the actions that are being opted by the two economic giants. Trade deadlock between Beijing and Washington is getting intense. U.S. protectionist and unilateral approach is the impetus behind this trade war and hence so far no promising foreseeable future can be anticipated. Moreover, China’s economic and development initiative i.e. BRI and its successful pilot project CPEC is also giving headaches to Oval. This Game of tariffs has engulfed whole of the globe into its chakra.

Trump and his policies have always been scrutinized by the analysts everywhere. Even before the elections, Trump expressed his strong urge to subdue China by means of trade restrictions. It was clearly evident even before the elections that if Mr. Trump will somehow make his path to Oval, he will surely give Chinese a sturdy time.

In Nov 2016, it happened just as it was feared. The heat of July 2018 had resulted into an economic cold war. With the world being the witness, there is no doubt that when Washington says, it knows how to make it happen. Therefore, when Washington flaunted its intentions to put serious tariffs onto Chinese commodities, it actually meant it. What started from a mere USD 34 billion, has crossed over USD 200 billion till-date. So far, Washington has imposed tariffs on USD 250 billion worth of goods coming to United States. Furthermore, it has also threatened to increase the threshold to an approximate value of USD 325 billion. In return, Beijing retaliated with putting tariffs on US$ 110 billion worth of goods.

The latest development that added fuel to the fire was on May 10, when United States raise tariffs to 25% on $200 Billion products coming from China annually. This escalated tensions between the two more as it projected that U.S. is not coming slow. Not only this, China has also banned the trade of rare elements. These elements hold prime importance in making of a number of electronic products such as mobiles and laptops in the United States.

China’s ministry of commerce has shown concern over American intentions regarding the engagement of two in the trade war and had warned that the dispute may even lead to “largest trade war in economic history”. China has repeatedly shared its concerns over the trade stand-off between Beijing and Washington. Whereas, continuous cold responses from Washington are leading situation to worse ends. China, as a responsible state, talks about equality, inclusiveness, and shared future for the globe. It always encouraged openness and cooperation.

Stubbornness of Trump’s Administration is pushing the Globe towards an economic and trade crisis. High tariffs on products will ultimately raise the costs for suppliers, manufacturers, retailers and then eventually affecting the people at tail¬— consumers. The end consumers will have to face large price raises even for the general products. On November 30, 2018, Chief of the World Trade Organization had said that global free trade is facing its worst crisis since 1947 and warned that the current spectrum of conflict will lead to global trade crisis.

These tensions are not restricted between the two; instead, they have led the global market to fluctuations, which has put business persons and investors in a situation of uncertainty. This investment dilemma can halt the economic progress inside of both countries. International Monetary Fund has also warned that a full-blown trade war would weaken the global economy. Earlier in this month, Cristine Lagarde gave remarks on Donald Trump’s intent to tax all trade between two countries that it would “shrink the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by one-half of one percent”.

China is the new reality. Washington needs to realize that. There are new players onto the scene. Oval’s actions will be scrutinized now; its ways will be challenged. It will no longer go uncontested.

The world knows that global economic ship today is sailing towards east and Chinese dockyard is where it will anchor. Mutual understanding is beneficiary for both the countries as well as for the world economy. Beijing is determined to meet Washington’s intentions with full capacity. United States is inducing self-inflicting pain to itself and to the world too. Companies inside US have already started showing their grievances regarding the trade stalemate between Beijing and Washington. Over 600 companies including Walmart urged Trump to resolve the dispute with China as it directly affects the business community and customers inside US. Washington needs to comprehend that it will become victim of its own protectionist gambit if it continues to be on the route on which it has maneuvered itself.

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8 facts you don’t know about the money migrants send back home

MD Staff

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Here are eight things you might not know about the transformative power of these often small – yet major – contributions to sustainable development worldwide:

1. About one in nine people globally are supported by funds sent home by migrant workers

Currently, about one billion people in the world – or one in seven – are involved with remittances, either by sending or receiving them. Around 800 million in the world – or one in nine people– are recipients of these flows of money sent by their family members who have migrated for work.

2. What migrants send back home represents only 15 per cent of what they earn

On average, migrant workers send between US$200 and $300 home every one or two months. Contrary maybe to popular belief, this represents only 15 per cent of what they earn: the rest –85 per cent – stays in the countries where they actually earn the money, and is re-ingested into the local economy, or saved.

3. Remittances remain expensive to send

These international money transfers tend to be costly: on average, globally, currency conversions and fees amount to 7 per cent of the total amounts sent. To ensure that the funds can be put to better purposes, countries are aiming through Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10.C to “reduce to less than 3 per cent the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5 per cent by 2030”.

Technical innovations, in particular mobile technologies, digitalization and blockchain can fundamentally transform the markets, coupled with a more conducive regulatory environment.

4. The money received is key in helping millions out of poverty

Although the money sent represents only 15 per cent of the money earned by migrants in the host countries, it is often a major part of a household’s total income in the countries of origin and, as such, represents a lifeline for millions of families.

“It is not about the money being sent home, it is about the impact on people’s lives,” explains Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD. “The small amounts of $200 or $300 that each migrant sends home make up about 60 per cent of the family’s household income, and this makes an enormous difference in their lives and the communities in which they live.”

It is estimated that three quarters of remittances are used to cover essential things: put food on the table and cover medical expenses, school fees or housing expenses. In addition, in times of crises, migrant workers tend to send more money home to cover loss of crops or family emergencies.

The rest, about 25 per cent of remittances – representing over $100 billion per year – can be either saved or invested in asset building or activities that generate income, jobs and transform economies, in particular in rural areas.

5. Specifically, remittances can help achieve at least seven of the 17 SDGs

When migrants send money back home, they contribute to several of the goals set in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. In particular: SDG 1, No Poverty; SDG 2, Zero Hunger; SDG 3, Good Health and Well-Being; SDG 4, Quality Education; SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth; and SDG 10, Reduced Inequality.

If current trends continue, between 2015 and 2030, the timeframe of the 2030 Agenda, an estimated $8.5 trillion will be transferred by migrants to their communities of origin in developing countries. Of that amount, more than $2 trillion – a quarter — will either be saved or invested, a key aspect of sustainable development.

“Governments, regulators and the private sector have an important role to play in leveraging the effects of these flows and, in so doing, helping nearly one billion people to reach their own sustainable development goals by 2030,” IFAD’s Gilbert F. Houngbo stressed in a statement.

6. Half of the money sent goes straight to rural areas, where the world’s poorest live

Around half of global remittances go to rural areas, where three quarters of the world’s poor and food insecure live. It is estimated that globally, the accumulated flows to rural areas over the next five years will reach $1 trillion.

7. They are three times more important than international aid, and counting

Remittances are a private source of capital that’s over three times the amount of official development assistance (ODA) and foreign direct investment (FDI) combined.

In 2018, over 200 million migrant workers sent $689 billion back home to remittance reliant countries, of which $529 billion went to developing countries.

In addition, the amount of money sent by international migrant workers to their families in developing countries is expected to rise to over $550 billion in 2019, up some $20 billion from 2018, according to IFAD.

8. The UN is working to facilitate remittances worldwide

“It is fair to say that, in poor rural areas, remittances can help to make migration a choice rather than a necessity for so many young people and for future generations,” explained Mr. Houngbo.

As such, migrant contributions to development – through remittances and investments – is one of the Objectives of the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, adopted by the UN General Assembly in December of last year.

With half of all flows going to rural areas in developing countries, IFAD, the UN’s agency mandated with agricultural development, is working to make the development impact of remittances even greater. The organisation’s Financing Facility for Remittances programme (FFR) was designed to promote innovative business models in order to lower transfer costs and provide financial services for migrants and their families. Through partnerships across several sectors, the programme runs initiatives to empower migrants and their families through financial education and inclusion, as well as migrant investment and entrepreneurship.

“Over the past decade, IFAD has invested in over 40 countries, supporting more than 60 projects aimed at leveraging the development impact of remittances for families and communities,” said Paul Winters, IFAD’s Associate Vice-President, in an event held on Friday at UN headquarters in New York.

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