Monterey, Calif.—Mohawk, a leader in the field of environmental stewardship, has formed a partnership with Plastic Bank—a social enterprise empowering communities around the world to use plastic waste as currency—in an effort to dramatically reduce ocean plastic pollution and combat high poverty levels in developing countries.
The partnership was officially announced here last week in front of select California Mohawk retailers, representatives from both Mohawk and Plastic Bank as well as other invited guests.
“I’m proud to announce our partnership with Plastic Bank, and we’ll work together to stop the rising tide of plastics from falling into the ocean,” said Kurt Weaver, Mohawk’s president of resilient flooring, in his address to attendees. “In this collaboration, we’ll support sites all around the world for collection and separation of plastics, and together we’ll stop 1 million pounds of plastic from entering the ocean.”
David Katz, founder and CEO of Vancouver, Canada-based Plastic Bank, a for-profit social enterprise that builds recycling ecosystems in under-developed communities, was equally enthusiastic about the partnership. “My heart lies in the work we do, and the partnership between Mohawk and Plastic Bank is witnessed in the hearts and the tears of the people that we affect,” he said.
Katz then shared several video clips of some of the people and families whose primary means of income is collecting ocean plastics via the Plastic Bank blockchain currency system. “I’m just some crazy guy trying to do some crazy stuff in the world, but it has resulted in some pretty great things.”
Some of those great things include an impressive track record of tons of bottles recovered from the world’s oceans. Plastic Bank said it has rescued the equivalent 4.9 billion individual bottles from the ocean since its founding in 2013.
Mohawk—already the largest recycler of plastic bottles—selected Plastic Bank mainly due to its shared environmental objectives. According to Phil Shuttlewood, sales director with Plastic Bank, it’s the company first collaboration with a flooring manufacturer. “The fact that a company like Mohawk is paying so much attention to this issue is amazing,” he said. “They’re really focused on doing the right thing.”
Plastic Bank’s model is based on a system whereby community members collect and exchange discarded plastic for income. These exchanges are recorded through Plastic Bank’s proprietary blockchain-secured platform, enabling traceable collection and verified reporting. Collectors are issued credits for every kilo of scrap plastic they bring in. Then, the collected plastic is processed and recycled into feedstock for reuse.
In many countries, these credits pay for many of life’s essentials. “They can spend them immediately on things like food, water and cooking oil or trade them for cash if they want to,” Shuttlewood explained. “But on the other end of that spectrum, they can also trade them for life insurance, health insurance, cell phone plans, grocery delivery plans, school tuition and rent assistance—things that can actually move the needle on their lives. That’s huge.”
Pure Tech tie-in
Mohawk’s partnership with Plastic Bank coincides with its newest product, PureTech, a planet-friendly, resilient waterproof floor. Made in the USA, PureTech is PVC-free and made of renewable and recycled materials. According to Mohawk, every purchase of PureTech will go toward stopping ocean plastic in collaboration with Plastic Bank. The initiative will be supported by Mohawk’s upcoming “Live Pure” campaign, which will feature PureTech assets that can be used to tell the Plastic Bank story.
“Mohawk has long been a leader in sustainability and driving sustainable products,” said Trey Thames, senior vice president, residential sales, Mohawk. “We have SmartStrand, EverStrand, RevWood and, now, PureTech. It’s not just products that are better for the environment—which is awesome—but they are better for the consumer and better for the retailers’ bottom line.”
Mohawk’s retailer partners in attendance during the launch were equally excited about both the partnership with Plastic Bank and the PureTech launch. “Many of our clients are very conscious about the environment and would definitely embrace a product like PureTech,” said Jerry Flores, sales manager with Carpet Caravan, based in Monterey.
Todd Wheeler, co-owner of Wheeler’s Flooring, Salinas, Calif., agreed. “PureTech is definitely a product that’s going to appeal to consumers and end users who don’t want any kind of PVC materials in the products they buy.”
The selection of this part of California to announce both the product launch and partnership was not arbitrary. “There are dealers here from as close as Monterey to as far away as Sacramento, and you guys know probably better than anyone the importance of having and selling sustainable products,” Mohawk’s Thames told attendees.
At the end of the day, according to Mohawk, it’s all about doing the right thing for the planet as well as consumers. “We all have the ability to influence, and we all have responsibilities that we have to take,” Weaver added. “At Mohawk, we recognize our influence as the global flooring leader, and we recognize our responsibility to make decisions that are good for our business and good for the planet. That very philosophy has created a culture of innovation at Mohawk that has helped us to build fantastic products for all of our customers.”