Plastic or Money?

I write this post while laying on my sunbed at one of Cyprus’ most iconic beaches, one that has been awarded with multiple blue flags for its glorious blue waters and golden sand. I consider myself one of the lucky and privileged ones for being able to swim in these waters every summer (and winter if I wanted to). Yet, after only a short swim from the shore I have fished out two metallic cans and a couple of plastic straws and cups from these same waters.

At a time where the planet finds itself in “shock” by National Geographics disturbing images of how plastic is slowly killing our planet away, we still carelessly “feed” on plastic. Plastic cups, plastic bags, plastic plates, plastic people. Planet or plastic?

In Cyprus, 1st July 2018 signalled the “beginning of the end” for plastic bags at supermarkets, bakeries, kiosks, coffee shops. Meaning: you can still get them, but for a small cost.

Have these been the first plastic bag-free months of the year?

Most definitely not.

If anything, more plastic cups, straws, bags are used during the summer months than any other time of the year.

If by now you’re wondering what does this have to do with a FinTech blog, read on.

You’ll be surprised to know that FinTech and being environmentally friendly are not two mutually exclusive terms. HelloGold has managed to sustainably pair the two and offers to the population of Malaysia and Singapore the option to (a) care for the planet and (b) care for their pockets too.

One man’s trash can end up being his gold too. HelloGold has launched vending machines across Malaysia that convert plastic bottles and aluminium cans to investment-grade gold. The reverse vending machines (“RVM“) set up by KLEAN company offer Malaysians 0.00059 grams of gold for each recycled plastic bottle or aluminium can they “feed” the machine.

To become richer (in mind and value) one needs to first download the HelloGold app from the Google or Apple Stores, register and create an account. By bringing the plastic bottles and aluminium cans to any KLEAN RVM for recycling, the user can choose to convert their KLEAN e-credits into gold through a seamless integration between the KLEAN digital wallet and the mobile app.

The KLEAN RVMs reward users with virtual points. These points can be used as virtual currency to purchase anything from mobile phone credit, food and other products. So you might not become (literally) rich but you will definitely become richer in many ways. I would have definitely made a few grams of gold myself have we had the RVMs at all Cyprus beaches and resorts….

Bringing things a step closer, there are multiple ways in which you can cut down your use of plastic as well as support local communities in doing so.

I am listing below some of my favourite suggestions, feel free to take them on board (and implement!).

  1. You can start by choosing to have your daily Starbucks in one of their reusable plastic cups which you can buy for €2 at any Starbucks Cyprus and benefit from the 15% on your coffee price, for each coffee that you ask to be served in your reusable cup.
  2. You can nicely complement that cold brew in your reusable Starbucks cup with a metal straw which you can order from the Let’s Make Cyprus Green initiative (4x for €12) and use them for life.
  3. Get one of the stylish ΙΔΑΛΙΑΔΕΣ (Idaliades) canvas shopping bags; eco-bags that have been crafted by retired women from Dali, Nicosia and who are engaged in traditional craftsmanship. ΙΔΑΛΙΑΔΕΣ is an initiative focusing on the empowerment and creative engagement of its members and contributes to the revival of traditional professions as well as providing financial assistance to poor and retired women. ΙΔΑΛΙΑΔΕΣ has paired up with Alphamega Hypermarkets and part of the sales profits from the eco-bags will go towards the purposes of the group. You can discover more about the group on their Facebook page here.
  4. Discover all the ways in which you can help make Cyprus green by visiting the Let’s Make Cyprus Green (“LMCG”) website, an entity that aims to inform and educate the public on the harm done to the planet through excessive use of plastic.
    LMCG is committed to eliminate plastic waste in Cyprus and develops a variety of high-quality eco-friendly products. It has also launched its Partners Programme for local businesses that want to align their brand image with environmental values, to which numerous businesses have already subscribed.
  5. Get your head around the fact that you don’t necessarily need to be rewarded in kind (although that would most definitely bring an additional incentive to do so) to be aware of the tremendous amount of plastic you, solo, waste each day and the need to cut that down and recycle. It all starts from there.

If you’ve read this far, it means you care. And I hope you are even a tiny bit inspired to make some changes in your everyday life too.

In an effort to raise awareness on plastic consumption myself, I looked for alternative methods where saving money (which is where FinTech usually comes in) and caring for the planet can co-exist. That can be done, judging by the collaboration between HelloGold and KLEAN companies.

Let’s all consider it as food for thought for the next time we choose to have our takeaway coffee in a plastic cup, or the next time we turn a blind eye in a plastic bag left “unattended” at the beach.

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