A Norwegian startup has come up with a way of using blockchain to clean beaches via token rewards for recycling.

Wilhelm Myer started by working on a blockchain-based alternative to banking, trying to convince friends that decentralized methods of banking could not only be cheaper but actually safer.

It was when Myer met Simen Knudsen, Nordic Ocean Watch CEO, that he began to formulate an idea which eventually blossomed into his current business. Knudsen broached the subject of cleaning beaches using blockchain and the rest, as Myer would say, is history.

Myer’s company, Empower, has become a unique way of recycling using blockchain. The public, by removing plastic waste to any certified recycling station, is rewarded with waste tokens. The idea draws on a system that has been in operation for some time throughout Norway where plastic bottles can be returned to shops for between 15 and 30 cents a bottle. There are also other incentives through the system for both users and manufacturers, the latter with an environmental tax exemption based on waste quotas.

Myer’s plan is to expand on this, making plastic recycling global phenomena with his first overseas collection point stationed on the Indonesian island of Bali in time for October’s Our Ocean Conference 2018 on 29 and 30 October.

The conference will convene participants from countries across the globe to ensure diverse perspectives from various stakeholders, including governments, commercial sectors, financing entities, scientific communities, civil society organizations, and young leaders. Heads of states, ministers and advocates from various backgrounds will also be invited to influence concrete and actionable commitments to preserve the ocean’s health.

Myer maintains it is just a matter of making picking up plastic an everyday activity, which simply means changing people’s mindsets when it comes to dealing with waste:

“The reason we have a high recycling rate in Norway is that you learn from being a kid that plastic has a value, you can pick it up and buy some candy with it… If we can do something like that in Indonesia, where people just drop plastic, we can give the value back to them.”

Empower wants to “bank the unbanked”, paying an equivalent of USD 1 a kilo for waste in blockchain, enabling those in developing counties to also discover new decentralized ways of banking that they can have control through a wallet:

“Within the plastic that’s part of what we are doing… Because we’ll give collectors a wallet where they can do peer-to-peer trading and hopefully this will bank them at the same time as giving them an opportunity to make revenue.”

Myer, who has had an eclectic career from graduating as a lawyer to buying an oil field and owning a solar company, eventually moved into blockchain last year. He is clearly motivated towards removing power from financial institutions and using blockchain to empower individuals as the company name suggests:

“I liked the disruptive impact it might have on banks,” he says of the technology. “So I came up with this idea of a platform where everyone can get a decent price on an account outside of the banks.”


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