Empower and blockchain working for the circular economy

Posted on 18 July 2019.

By rewarding waste collection, this Norwegian start-up hopes to stem plastic pollution and fight poverty with an activity that brings in money.

In a number of key areas blockchain can be very useful to the circular economy

Giving monetary value to plastic waste is the idea of the Norwegian start-up Empower which wants to encourage people across the world to pick up and dispose of plastic bottles at collection points. An idea inspired by the Norwegian plastic bottle deposit system, which allows the land of fjords to recycle over 95% of its bottles.
The idea is also to bring together people who want to finance cleaning up operations and those who are willing to do it. Empower has therefore created a fund to pay people who rid the environment of plastic waste: 80% of the money collected from sponsors goes into the fund, 15% is allocated to developing blockchain technology and managing operations, and 5% is donated to local associations and NGOs fighting poverty.
Empower issues EMP Tokens worth $1 that are paid out for each batch of waste deposited at a collection point. Payment is made into an electronic wallet, via a mobile app.
Several cleaning up operations have already been organized in different countries – Norway, India, Sri Lanka, and Laos ; on the beaches, in the city and even in the jungle - in cooperation with NGOs and local authorities who recover the waste collected and ensure that it is properly recycled.
Through these initiatives, Empower puts blockchain technology at the service of the circular economy. Blockchain makes it possible to distribute tokens anywhere in the world, securely and without any intermediaries and in addition guarantees the transparency and traceability of the process. Consequently it is possible, for the sponsor who made each waste deposit possible to be kept informed.

Blockchain, best friend of the circular economy

Popularized by bitcoin, blockchain is a transparent, secure and decentralized information storage and transmission technology. It functions as a digital register of exchanges, which are unalterable and verifiable by all the users in the same group. As a result in a number of key areas it can be very useful to the circular economy.
For example, it makes it possible to manage and optimize energy flows in the context of collective self-consumption. In New York, residents in a Brooklyn neighborhood have set up a micro solar network using blockchain. 
It also supports the spread of new sustainable practices in collaborative consumption or the sharing economy. The Israeli start-up La`Zooz uses the technology to offer a carpool service to the local community.
Finally, blockchain can also be used to provide information about the traceability of products (from start to end of life) - supply chains are more transparent which helps consumers make responsible purchasing decisions. For the first time in 2018, Carrefour applied blockchain to its Auvergne Carrefour Quality chicken. By scanning the QR Code on the product label, consumers can access a certain amount of information, such as the location and method of farming, the feed and treatment.