Blockchain Technology for Governance of Plastic Waste Management: Where Are We?
- What blockchain initiatives are representative of current waste and plastics sector activity?
- What are common or distinctive experiences across these initiatives that could provide insights about likely future disruptions and development lessons for both the waste and plastics sectors?
2. Research Design and Methods
2.1. Scoping Reviews
- Eligible technology: only initiatives using blockchain technology were included; and
- Eligible sector: only initiatives within the waste management sector were included.
2.3. Categorization of Initiatives
3. Blockchain Technology Initiatives within the Waste Management Sector
3.1. Cryptocurrency Payments
3.2. Cryptocurrency-Based Reuse and Recycling Rewards
3.3. Monitoring and Tracking of Waste
3.4. Smart Contract Implementation
“other than the security aspect, the biggest thing that blockchain enables is a system set-up using smart contracts… which just gives us really full control over putting all the rules and conditions into the system, to ensure that it always works the way it’s supposed to. So for us the biggest thing–blockchain is mostly just even an open-sourced digital ledger, but it’s a smart contract”.(Interview Participant A)
“putting your smart contract online, customizing it and having it working, it’s like a breeze, really super easy and this is why this was a really good technology to use at the time”.(Interview Participant E)
4. Observations on Blockchain Technology for Circular Plastic Waste Governance
4.1. Embodiment of Good Governance Characteristics
4.2. Role of Law
“most legalities around waste have to do with literally shipping garbage… That’s where you get a lot of regulation… I’ve found a lot of the waste laws are about what you can do with unsorted garbage; not necessarily with recycled and sorted materials”.(Interview Participant A)
“That actually probably would be… the biggest headache. Not necessarily the laws around it, but the lack of laws. So even when I talked to the authorities of [X] government, their statement was most countries have a–no one’s in charge of digital banking or blockchain-based token systems, and different countries sometimes it falls into digital banking, sometimes it falls into security… quite often countries don’t have anyone in charge of this and it’s really a wait and see. So they’ll see how it gets used, put out, then make a decision on what you can and can’t do. So one of the harder things is most countries there’s not a definitive rule of here’s what you can do. So the ambiguity on that can be a bit tricky”.(Interview Participant A)
“you can have different countries where all of a sudden you now follow banking rules or digital payment rules or security’s rules, just because you’re using blockchain, not because you fall into those categories. So that’s the big risk of–if someone really wants to put legal pressure on something they could, so the more ambiguous it is, [the more problematic]… Partners might not like the fact that there’s ambiguity”.(Interview Participant A)
“For example, legislation just got passed this year on plastics, but it’s only for a certain type of plastic, and it’s a type of plastic that is very easy to make. But it’s also very easy to replace with another plastic. So the regulation doesn’t really make so much of a change, except make people pay for plastic. It doesn’t really solve the problems, it just pushes the cost to the consumer. The new plastics are still being dumped the same old way”.(Interview Participant B)
4.3. Multiplicity of Actors and Decentralization
4.4. Problem- vs. Solution-Based Approaches
“I find a lot of blockchain projects are case studies, prototypes, proof of concepts and people starting with, ‘I want a blockchain business, let’s see how I can build a blockchain business,’ which can be very different than ‘I have a real business with a real business model and blockchain helps this part of my solution’”.(Interview Participant A)
4.5. Blockchain Design Choices
“you do get … people say[ing], ‘Oh, I thought blockchain was terrible for the environment,’ and Bitcoin is technically terrible for the environment. Doing a system that requires mining is terrible for the environment, but I actually got my guys to do the math, and a transaction on our system is one tenth the [energy] cost of sending an email”.(Interview Participant A)
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
|Agora Tech Lab||Agora Tech Lab. 2018. Waste management fueled by blockchain. Available online: www.agoratechlab.com (accessed on 13 September 2021).|
|Arep||Digital SNCF. 2017. Data-tritus–Comment la blockchain simplifie le tri des déchets. Available online: www.digital.sncf.com/actualites/data-tritus-comment-la-blockchain-simplifie-le-tri-des-dechets (accessed on 13 September 2021).|
|Bounties Network||Beylin, Mark. 2018. Bounties for the Oceans: Incentives to change the world. Available online: https://medium.com/bounties-network/bounties-for-the-oceans-incentives-to-change-the-world-8f3429fd01e9 (accessed on 6 September 2021).|
Calderon, Justin. 2019. Poorer communities in the developing world bear the brunt of plastic pollution. Could a new digital payment system spark a clean-up revolution? Available online: www.bbc.com/future/article/20190613-a-simple-online-system-that-could-end-plastic-pollution (accessed on 8 September 2021).
Pop, Simona. 2018. Bounties for the Oceans: Philippines pilot., Available online: https://medium.com/bounties-network/bounties-for-the-oceans-philippines-pilot-db4319b0012 (accessed on 6 September 2021).
The Bounties Network. N.d. Bounties for the Oceans: Manila. Available online: https://bounties.network/manila.html (accessed on 6 September 2021).
|Citizen Involved & Technology Assisted Governance (CITAG)||CITAG. N.d. Society for Citizen Involved Technology Assisted Governance. Available online: https://citag.home.blog (accessed on 8 September 2021).|
Mallow, Chris. 2021. Even garbage is using blockchain now. Available online: www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-18/even-garbage-is-using-blockchain-now (accessed on 8 September 2021).
|Dutch Ministry for Infrastructure||LTO Network. 2021. Waste transport on blockchain. Available online: www.ltonetwork.com/use-cases/waste-transport-on-blockchain/ (accessed on 13 September 2021).|
Stolk, John. 2018. Dutch and Belgian authorities to streamline European waste transportation on blockchain. Available online: https://medium.com/capptions/dutch-and-belgian-authorities-to-streamline-european-waste-transportation-on-blockchain-5e44522d3eb (accessed on 13 September 2021).
|Jay Phillips Partnership||Jackson, Mike. 2018. How Bitcoin and blockchain technology can benefit the waste management industry. Available online: www.recyclingwasteworld.co.uk/in-depth-article/how-bitcoin-and-blockchain-technology-can-be-put-to-good-use-in-the-waste-management-industry/168216 (accessed on 6 September 2021).|
|JellyCoin||Lanz, Jose Antonio. 2019. Argentina to reward waste management with new “wastecoin” called JellyCoin. Available online: https://decrypt.co/8695/argentina-reward-waste-management-with-new-wastecoin-called-jellycoin (accessed on 13 September 2021).|
[When research was undertaken in 2018, there was a website: www.jellycoin.org that is no longer attached to initiative.]
|Lidbot||IOTA Foundation. 2020. Ldbot—building the future of waste management. Available online: https://blog.iota.org/lidbot-and-iota-building-the-future-of-waste-management-680504f4e303/ (accessed on 6 September 2021).|
Lidbot. N.d. Lidbot. Available online: https://lidbot.com (accessed on 6 September 2021).
|Oil & Gas Supply Chain (OGSC, formerly OILSC)||OGSC. 2021. Oil & Gas Supply Chain. Available online: https://oilsc.io (accessed on 13 September 2021).|
|Parry & Evans||Sanderson, Paul. 2017. Prismm Environmental and Parry & Evans become first companies to trade recyclable paper using Bitcoin in UK. Available online: https://www.rebnews.com/prismm-environmental-and-parry-evans-become-first-companies-to-trade-recyclable-paper-using-bitcoin-in-uk/ (accessed on 6 September 2021).|
|Plastic Bank||Plastic Bank. 2020. Plastic Bank. Available online: https://plasticbank.com (accessed on 6 September 2021).|
|Prismm Environmental||Jackson, Mike. 2018. How Bitcoin and blockchain technology can benefit the waste management industry. Available online: https://www.recyclingwasteworld.co.uk/in-depth-article/how-bitcoin-and-blockchain-technology-can-be-put-to-good-use-in-the-waste-management-industry/168216 (accessed on 6 September 2021).|
Sanderson, Paul. 2017. Prismm Environmental and Parry & Evans become first companies to trade recyclable paper using Bitcoin in UK. Available online: www.rebnews.com/prismm-environmental-and-parry-evans-become-first-companies-to-trade-recyclable-paper-using-bitcoin-in-uk/ (accessed on 6 September 2021).
|Recereum||Recereum. 2017. Recereum. Available online: https://recereum.com (accessed on 13 September 2021).|
|Recyclebot||Recyclebot. N.d. Recyclebot. Fastest way to recycle solid waste. Available online: http://recyclebot.launchrock.com (accessed on 15 September 2021).|
|RecycleGO||RecycleGo. 2020. RecycleGo. Available online: https://recyclego.com (accessed on 13 September 2021).|
|RecycleToCoin||The Blockchain Development Company. 2017. First recycling initiative from blockchain. Available online: www.recycling-magazine.com/2017/11/11/first-recycling-initiative-blockchain/ (accessed on 13 September 2021).|
[When research was undertaken in 2018, there was a website: www.recycletocoin.com that is no longer attached to initiative.]
|Save Environment Tokens (SET)||Save Environment Token (SET). What is Save Environmnet Token (SET) and how does it work? Available online: https://medium.com/save-environment-token/what-is-save-environment-token-set-and-how-does-it-work-4b8388d9860f (accessed on 16 September 2021).|
[When research was undertaken in 2018, there was a website: www.set4earth.com that is no longer active.]
|Save Planet Earth||Save Planet Earth. 2021. The official home of $SPE. Available online: https://saveplanetearth.io (accessed on 16 September 2021).|
|Swachhcoin||Swachhcoin. 2018. All you need to know about Swachhcoin. Available online: https://medium.com/@swachhcoin/all-you-need-to-know-about-swachhcoin-53bb58e12c3d (accessed on 6 September 2021).|
Swachhcoin. 2021. Swachhcoin. Available online: http://swachhcoin.com (accessed on 6 September 2021).
|Vastum||Anthesis. 2019. Anthesis waste tracking system wins development funding from GovTechCatalyst Challenge. Available online: www.anthesisgroup.com/smart-waste-tracking-system-govtech-catalyst-defra/ (accessed on 7 September 2021).|
|W2V Eco Solutions||W2V Eco Solutions. 2021. W2V Eco Solutions. Available online: https://w2v.io (accessed on 13 September 2021).|
|Initiative||Reasons for Exclusion|
|4New||Reports exist questioning its veracity.|
|Purpose of Question||Main Question||Possible Follow-Up Questions and Prompts If Needed|
|Ice-breaker||Please tell me about [the initiative].||What is its purpose?|
What is the waste [or resource/being used?
Can you describe the life-cycle of this particular resource?
How are you getting people involved? When? Why?
What are users getting out of it?
|Description of initiative||For what purpose is blockchain being used in [name of initiative]?||What issues are faced?|
What rationale suggested the fit with blockchain?
|How is blockchain technology used in [name of initiative]: please talk me through the process of how the waste [or resource/and its related data comes to be on the blockchain. Please included in your explanation the users involved at different stages.||Clarification if have data privacy concerns: We do not need specific identifiers, but are interested in a general, high-level description. For example, an individual person brings waste to a company, and it is that company that puts data on the blockchain about what the resource is and who has brought it in.|
|Technology||What blockchain technology has been used? I.e., have you made your own or are you using, e.g., Ethereum?|
|What is the size of the user base?|
|Do users actively engage with blockchain or is it all ‘behind the scenes?|
|Incentives||What were your incentives for adopting blockchain for the purpose of [the initiative]?||Questions focused on eliciting additional detail. E.g., if answer “environmental”, then followed-up with identifying the particular environmental elements (e.g., reduce waste, incentivize recycling, etc.).|
|Were there any particular legal incentives? That is, is there anything in the law or particular law or policy that motivated you?|
|Barriers||What were your main challenges or difficulties for adopting blockchain for the purpose of [the initiative]?||Were these overcome?|
How were these overcome?
How were they avoided?
|Were there any particular legal barriers?|
|Laws and policies||Are you aware of your initiative helping meet requirements set out in any laws or policies?||For example, how is blockchain technology supporting waste laws and policies?|
|Future looking||What knowledge gaps do you face?|
What practical design issues do you face?
What practical implementation issues do you face?
|What questions would you like answered?|
What trends do you expect in future blockchain for waste action?
|A||cryptocurrency-based reuse and recycling reward||co-founder|
monitoring and tracking of waste
|C||monitoring and tracking of waste|
|D||monitoring and tracking of waste||technical expert|
|E||monitoring and tracking of waste||technical expert|
Expansion is planned into Ethiopia, India, and South Africa (Sustainable Brands 2018).
No information is available on this, so it is not included in the table.
Further information about the details of this initiative is currently unavailable as the homepage is being updated in preparation for Swachh 2.0. It is therefore unclear how this initiative intends to expand and whether these intentions have been operationalized yet.
JellyCoin appears to have been discontinued. Its website is no longer online (nor is its “parent” network website) and its Twitter account has also not been updated in recent months (whereas previously it was active).
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|Initiative||Focus Area||Usage Type||Intended Users||Geographic Focus||Initiated||Stage|
|Agora Tech Lab||household waste||cryptocurrency-based reuse and recycling rewards||civil society||cities||2017||pilot|
|Arep||waste collected at train stations||monitoring and tracking of waste||train station managers||France||20171||project discontinued after completed pilot|
|Bounties Network||plastic waste||cryptocurrency-based payments||civil society, social entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations||global–so far in Canada Philippines, U.K., USA, Venezuela||2018||pilot|
|Citizen Involved & Technology Assisted Governance (CITAG)||waste||monitoring and tracking of waste||civil society, municipal authorities and waste industry||Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara (India)||2019||pilot*|
|Dutch Ministry for Infrastructure||company waste||monitoring and tracking of waste from producers to landfills||public authorities and waste management organizations transporting between the Netherlands and Belgium||The Netherlands and Flanders (Belgium)||2018||Development *|
|Jay Phillips Partnership||waste being shipped||cryptocurrency payments||Jay Phillips Partnership|
//private corporation //international
|U.K., Far East, Indian subcontinent, and Europe||20182||Pilot *|
|JellyCoin||Plastics, metals, and organic waste||cryptocurrency-based reuse and recycling reward||civil society||Argentine province of Misiones||2019||Development *|
(no website anymore so likely discontinued)
|Lidbot (previously Two)||waste||cryptocurrency payments|
monitoring and tracking of waste
|no specified focus–waste management sector generally||global—piloted in Singapore and Taiwan||2018||pilot|
|Oil & Gas Supply Chain (OGSC, formerly OILSC)||oil and gas waste||smart contract implementation||oil and gas waste disposal companies, organizations, and government agencies||global—no specified area||2016||development|
|Parry & Evans||company waste||cryptocurrency payments|
monitoring and tracking of waste
|Parry & Evans||U.K.||20173||Pilot *|
|Plastic Bank||plastic waste||cryptocurrency-based reuse and recycling reward||civil society||Brazil, Haiti, Indonesia, Philippines4||2013||operational|
|Prismm Environmental||factory waste||cryptocurrency payments||Prismm Environmental||U.K.||20185||Operational *|
|Recereum||household waste||cryptocurrency-based reuse and recycling reward||civil society and waste management organizations||global—no specified area||2017||project discontinued (predecessor for W2V Eco Solutions)|
|Recyclebot||solid waste||monitoring and tracking of waste |
|civil society and waste management organizations||Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya||2018||development|
|RecycleGO||recyclable waste (including a specific focus on plastics recycling)||monitoring and tracking of waste||waste management organizations|
(to be expanded to civil society, private sector)
|global—no specified area||2018||operational|
|RecycleToCoin||single-use plastic bottles and aluminum cans||cryptocurrency-based reuse and recycling reward||civil society||U.K.||2017||Development *|
(no website anymore so likely discontinued)
|Save Environment Tokens (SET)||solid waste||cryptocurrency-based recycling reward||local authorities||global—no specified area||2018||development|
(no website anymore so likely discontinued)
|Save Planet Earth||metal, plastics, municipal solid waste||unclear||unclear||global—no specified area||2021||planned for 2022|
|Swachhcoin||household waste||cryptocurrency-based reuse and recycling reward||civil society||global—no specified area||2014||project discontinued (predecessor Swachh 2.0)6|
|Vastum||waste||monitoring and tracking of waste||government, regulators, waste producers, waste industry, municipal authorities||U.K.||2019||development|
|W2V Eco Solutions||waste||cryptocurrency-based reuse and recycling rewards||civil society||global—no specified area||2019||pilot|
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Steenmans, K.; Taylor, P.; Steenmans, I. Blockchain Technology for Governance of Plastic Waste Management: Where Are We? Soc. Sci. 2021, 10, 434. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10110434
Steenmans K, Taylor P, Steenmans I. Blockchain Technology for Governance of Plastic Waste Management: Where Are We? Social Sciences. 2021; 10(11):434. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10110434Chicago/Turabian Style
Steenmans, Katrien, Phillip Taylor, and Ine Steenmans. 2021. "Blockchain Technology for Governance of Plastic Waste Management: Where Are We?" Social Sciences 10, no. 11: 434. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10110434