Recently, Ashleigh Elkins wrote an arresting article explaining what blockchain is and how it ties in with sustainability. As a follow-up and because you can’t take the marine biologist out of me, I’m going to dig into how blockchain technology can help clean the ocean.
When I hear about blockchain, it usually has to do with cryptocurrency. This is because blockchain relies on the hashing of data which, simply put, is the encryption of data. When a hash is created for blockchain data, it must be referenced within the next link of the chain. This way data is immutable, which means it cannot be manipulated without the entire chain being broken and so blockchain is often described as ledger because it is an uneditable record of events. Anything can be stored within the blockchain and you can know with absolute certainty that things cannot be changed which is why it has been popular for currency, legal documents and ballot casting.
So how can this be related to cleaning the oceans?
If you are into sustainability and you live in The Netherlands like me, not only will you become a cycling enthusiast (as this is one of the best ways to get to the tulip fields), you will also quickly become familiar with some of the brands and companies advocating for green initiatives. One such Dutch company is Waste2Wear which produces fabrics from materials that are sourced from blockchain verified plastics. The company used blockchain technology to make textile manufacture more traceable and measurable. Working with NGOs and the local government in Shanghai, Waste2Wear are developing a circular business model for textile manufacture which allows fishermen to boost their income in return for plastic collected at sea.
Using blockchain adds a layer of trust because the use of digital currency via blockchain is an effective security method for collectors against theft. Another issue for waste collectors can be the unpredictability surrounding payment for collecting recyclables. Blockchain can remedy this issue by providing a secure infrastructure for processing waste. The Plastic Bank, a Canadian start-up are using these economic and environmental advantages to incentivise collectors to clean marine plastics. Companies with similar business models for plastic recycling systems include Norwegian companies, Empower and Inframar.
Another company to employ blockchain solutions to clean the oceans is SelaLabs. SelaLabs aims to tackle oil spill management and ensure that the clean-up processes remain corruption-free by using cryptocurrencies. The utilisation of blockchain as a decentralized, secure pathway for sustainable solutions can also be extended to recycling of e-waste and traceability of carbon offsets.
Like most technology-based solutions, blockchain has the potential to be applied to remedy several types of current pressing problems. However, unlike most technology-based solutions, blockchain is a paradigm shift in the way we store and secure data and can be so much more than just HODL memes.