8 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year. It’s a staggering figure! Find out how one company has created an innovative solution using Blockchain technology to potentially close the loop on single use plastics ending up polluting our environment. Eric Schaffner, the CEO and Founder of ZeLoop tells Goumbook all about this revolutionary eco-friendly platform which rewards consumers for their pro-environmental actions.
First of all, I’d really like to know about the blockchain solutions for the beverage industry, can you explain how this works and the benefits?
Blockchain is a foundational emerging technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, much like the internet was for the previous (or third) industrial revolution. Blockchain can bring about enormous breakthroughs with its decentralized infrastructure distributed and immutable ledger and advanced cryptography that could transform many existing processes in business, governance, and society.
With the help of this technology, participants in a particular network can in fact own a piece of the network by hosting what’s called a node (a device on the blockchain) and control their records. By doing so they can manage all their own information.
The technology was created to combine privacy and security during transactions. To put it simply, we can represent the Blockchain as a register written in indelible ink, which keeps track of all information issued. Information is written on a “block”, which is added to the “chain.” This can work for economic transactions, information, videos, music, everything can appear on the Blockchain. The application of this technology can address the issues of traceability, consumer loyalty and possibly be a means to finance new projects.
We will be implementing a blockchain technology in to the ZeLoop application which will allow users to share information, validate collected plastic amounts, receive rewards automatically, exchange their tokens, and donate in full transparency with the certainty it goes to the selected organization.
We are also creating the Eco Reward Token, that will support the reward engine of the App but can be used as support for other initiatives in a circular economy that will be introduced during the scaling up of the platform.
What prompted you to create ZeLoop and can you please explain the concept?
I come from the beverage packaging industry so am very aware of the growing plastic pollution and its impact on the planet. But don’t get me wrong, this is not about the plastic as a material but about how we are using it and disposing of it. Would people discard plastic in nature if it was gold? Our core motivation is to address several elements; assist the industry in designing better and more easily recyclable products, reduce or eliminate as much as possible, educate citizens and give our waste a value. We wanted to make an impact and this is what encouraged us to create ZeLoop. We realized the best method of doing this was to build a platform that can host several mobile applications that will use the blockchain reward engine we have engineered to reward citizens for their pro-environmental behaviors.
On the platform, we are plugging our ZeLoop application focusing on rewarding consumers when they bring used plastic bottles back to deposit points whether they are three-way bins, bottle containers, or reverse vending machines. The end result being plastic bottles don’t end up in nature.
We often talk about the carrot and the stick approach to encouraging people to recycle or be more environmentally conscious, you decided to go with the carrot option, why and can you explain the reward system?
The stick works, countries with deposit schemes on plastic bottles in North Europe show very good collection rates but that requires a costly infrastructure as well as management of financial flows and at the end it is like a penalty; if you don’t bring bottles back, you lose the deposit that was embedded in the product when purchased.
We thought there could be another more positive way to streamline this process and one that also gives more chance to engage and educate consumers.
This is where the blockchain part comes in. For every bottle deposited (so not discarded in nature), we give tokens that can be exchanged against goods and services and we hope even money eventually. The app is also gamified and users will find time-limited challenges called Eco Missions. The winners will receive great prizes from partners.
Can you talk me through the recycling process, how it is collected, where it goes, and where ultimately it ends up?
We are not managing the bottle collection ourselves. ZeLoop is positioned upstream by rewarding the gesture of not littering and dropping a bottle at either the three-way bins or reverse vending machines.
The future of these collected bottles will depend on where they are dropped but at least they have a chance not to end up in nature and that is what we want.
On our road map though, thanks to partnerships with waste management companies or recycling companies, we will qualify the quality of the treatment downstream at the collection points and reward more at those points that are engaging in a truly circular economy.
What would you like to see happening in the region to encourage more recycling i.e. new facilities, more circular economy possibilities, education etc.?
The region depends largely on imports so could consider greater engagement in implementing circular economies with local short loops. To achieve this, one has to work on several segments of the cycle by engaging all stakeholders from regulators, brand owners, retails to consumers. If we can increase to capacity to produce or at least to reproduce and the capacity to collect, sort, and recycle while we educate end-users, we will reduce the impact of our activity on our environment.
By closing the loop, ZeLoop provides continuity to all stakeholders.
One could argue this system is actually encouraging people to use more plastic as they will be rewarded for doing so, what would you say to this?
Let’s face it, plastic will not disappear from our modern life because it is a very versatile material that, in most cases, we can’t replace by another material without making it worse in terms of carbon footprint.
Fortunately, we see more and more solutions for non-fossil fuel-based plastics; made out algae, fish scale, fungus, and we see also recycling solutions allowing endless loops without loss of properties. It will take time though, too long actually. So, we need to change the way we use plastic and dispose of it. By rewarding, we encourage people not to litter their used products. We don’t give them a blessing to consume more plastic without care.
Is it only plastic or do you foresee being able to incorporate this model with other possible recyclables in the future?
The ZeLoop application could easily integrate aluminum cans and glass bottles because the consumption mode and collection points are similar to plastic bottles.
The platform, with its reward engine can provide the base for dedicated applications to other recyclables or even other impacting consumables such as electricity or water.
This will create a suite of solutions for a better world with the Eco Reward, the common link for users. We have ongoing discussions with partners and are looking forward to getting more onboard.
What does the future look like, (could it be plastic free) what excites you about it and what worries you about it?
The future could be free of fossil fuel-based plastic, plastics that are fully recyclable and recycled and only used when they are the lowest in terms of cradle to cradle impact.
We see some countries have succeeded in having a great majority of conscious consumers so there is no reason we cannot turn the world toward respecting our planet.
The millenia generation is ready for that so let’s put more effort into education and incentivize proper behaviors.
Let’s do it before the point of no return is reached for our unique planet.
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Eric Schaffner, the CEO and Founder of ZeLoop
Eric has worked in the beverage packaging industry for over 20 years, in a variety of commercial leadership and operational roles worldwide.
He relocated in Dubai, where he met his partners who share the same values and willingness to help change habits in society, health and sustainability. Sensitive to the growing issue of plastic pollution, they decided to found ZeLoop; an innovative Circular Economy Rewarding Platform to make our planet healthier.