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Plastic Ocean - A Plastic Salvaging App

The goal is to prevent plastic debris from entering marine environments without disrupting the participants in the circular economy.

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Full description:

The Plastic Ocean App will reward salvagers who return plastic caches into the circular economy. The prize system will be modeled after the Blue Chip Stamps customer loyalty program from the 1960's. During the purchase, retailers gave customers blue chip stamps that could be saved and reimbursed for prizes in a catalog.

This program was so successful that retailers who were prevented form participating sued for their right to be included. They won their case and Blue Chip Stamps was forced to become a publicly traded company. With a float of $400 million (in today's dollars) it was such a value that Warren Buffett bought the controlling shares and it later became Berkshire Hathaway.

I propose that rather than rewarding consumers at the point of sale, salvagers will be rewarded at the point of return. Recycle locations will be decentralized and mapped on the Plastic Ocean App. Blockchain tokens will replace the Blue Chip Stamps.

Why a packaging redesign is not required:

Use Case #3 states that coffee cup lids are made from non-recycled polystyrene, suggesting that a redesign may be needed. In California polystyrene has a reimbursement value of $5.52 per pound. This is five times the reimbursement rate for aluminum. Forget about the disruption from a lid redesign. Let's encourage individuals to capture the salvage reward while reducing the negative externality of polluting our oceans.

All plastic waste can be recycled if it is sorted and bundled. 

Idea Title

Back to the future with Blue Chip Stamps

Company / Organization Name




Where are you / your team located?

San Carlos, CA

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

No redesign of any plastic products is required to meet the goal of keeping plastic out of our waterways. Plastic manufacturers are not the bad guys. Plastic gets trapped in an ocean gyre when it is jettisoned out of the circular economy into the environment by consumers. Whether a plastic package can be reused, recycled or composted is irrelevant if it escapes into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Ironic that the plastic designed to protect our food is contaminating our marine food sources

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Saatwika stated that she could not do anything with the sachets because they are worthless. She wished the people putting sachets on the market could arrange a system to take them back. The Plastic Ocean App will assign a Salvage Prize to make the satchels worth sorting and bulking. Mark has the opportunity to be rewarded for a partial Salvage Prize while riding his bike by simply mapping the plastic caches along the roadside with his smart phone using the Plastic Ocean App.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Plastic Ocean App will be effective in any area where there is a potential for plastic waste to enter a marine environment. China contributes 2.4 metric tons/year of plastic waste entering the ocean. This is equivalent to $5 billion of salvage value.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

The City of Palo Alto with its zero waste goals and its 95% efficient recycling center is a great place to start. Plastic Ocean App is a cloud function that is scalable and event driven. Other municipalities will model Palo Alto's success. Any individual, retailer or corporation may become a salvor. Commercial salvors will be compensated for sorting and bulking the plastic that they deliver to the recycling centers.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

The IDEO webinars were very valuable for helping me understand the key preferences of plastic packaging producers. Further support from the plastics industry in the Accelerator Program will make the Plastic Ocean App less disruptive and allow for a more seamless implementation.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

Open IDEO Hackathon, Palo Alto

Tell us about your work experience

I am a design and manufacturing engineer. I am listed as an inventor of a plastic seltzer bottle designed to replace a more dangerous glass one. I may have been contributing to our Plastic Ocean

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Sole Proprietorship

Attachments (1)

Calirornia Refund Value.pdf

Sample of reimbursements for recycled plastics


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