"If poverty disappears, then the plastic soup disappears as well"

Plastic Bank founder David Katz is the winner of the Prix Voltaire International 2019

NOORDWIJK - David Katz is this year’s winner of the Prix Voltaire International 2019. His Plastic Bank is the only organization in the world that converts plastic waste into a means of payment, thereby cleaning the environment and also reducing poverty. "We have to turn off the tap at the source, and poverty is the source of plastic waste," David Katz said when receiving the award at Huis ter Duin in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. David Katz is successor to Paul Polman, the former Unilever CEO who won the prize last year.

"David Katz is a system changeer"

Paul Polman, last year's winner and one of the architects of the 17 Sustainability Development Goals of the United Nations, calls David Katz a ‘system changer’, and that is what the world needs, according to Polman. People who look at the problems in a different way and think in terms of solutions, tackle the major sustainability issues. Katz is a strong example of this, according to Polman. He sees the change at more organizations and is happy with it. "If there is darkness, create light."

Plastic Bank

The founder of the Plastic Bank receives the prestigious sustainability prize because of his drive to change the world and with that he is an example for other entrepreneurs, according to jury chairman Melanie Schulz van Haegen. David Katz has given value to waste with his Plastic Bank. “It's about giving value to something. In countries such as Haiti and the Philippines, the garbage collector does not collect the waste, you burn it or throw it away. It has no value”, says Katz. The Plastic Bank has made it useful for poor families in developing countries to collect plastic and turn it into money. “These people can now pay school fees for their children, they get a loan to set up their own businesses and save money. That is what the Plastic Bank does, giving value to plastic, and with that value to people, so that they come out of poverty”. The Plastic Bank uses the collected plastic to recycle it and thus give it a second or third life.

New Social Enlightenment

The Prix Voltaire International is awarded every year to a person who commits to change society in a sustainable way. The Prix Voltaire International is named after the French philosopher and freethinker François Voltaire who is seen as a symbol of the Enlightenment period. Modern society wants to improve its quality of life, but is also responsible for the negative effects of growth and prosperity. Individuals who are committed to a new social Enlightenment in support of a sustainable society, through change, renewal and development, against dogmas and modern institutions, can be awarded with this Prix Voltaire International Award. The organization describes them as "Friendly Fighters for Future proof Fundamentals".

Focus on the new generation

Next year, in addition to the Prix Voltaire, the Prix de l’Espoire will also be handed out to a future winner. The l’Espoire is an incentive prize for young people who are driven to commit to social change in a sustainable way. With the l'Espoire, the organization highlights the new generation. David Katz says that millennials are driven to solve sustainability problems. “They grew up during the times of an economic crisis and with climate problems. They want to change the system and that is what we need.” 


“Als armoede verdwijnt, dan verdwijnt ook de plastic soep”

Plastic Bank oprichter David Katz is winnaar van de Prix Voltaire 2019

NOORDWIJK – David Katz is de winnaar van de Prix Voltaire 2019. Zijn Plastic Bank is de enige organisatie ter wereld die plastic afval omzet in een betaalmiddel, waardoor armoede wordt tegengegaan. “We moeten de kraan dichtdraaien bij de bron, en armoede is de bron van plastic waste,” zei David Katz bij het in ontvangst nemen van de award in Huis ter Duin. David Katz is de opvolger van Paul Polman, de voormalig topman van Unilever die vorig jaar de prijs won.

“David Katz is een systeemveranderaar”
Paul Polman, de winnaar van vorig jaar en één van de architecten van de 17 Sustainability Development Goals van de Verenigde Naties, noemt David Katz een systeemveranderaar, en dat is wat de wereld nodig heeft volgens Polman. Mensen die op een andere manier naar de problemen kijken en denken in oplossingen, pakken daarmee de grote duurzaamheidsvraagstukken aan. Katz is daar een sterk voorbeeld van, aldus Polman. Hij ziet de verandering bij meer organisaties en is daar blij mee. “Als er donkerte is, creëer dan licht.”

Plastic Bank
De oprichter van de Plastic Bank krijgt de prestigieuze duurzaamheidsprijs vanwege zijn gedrevenheid om de wereld te veranderen en daarmee is hij een voorbeeld voor andere ondernemers, aldus juryvoorzitter Melanie Schulz van Haegen. David Katz heeft met zijn Plastic Bank waarde gegeven aan afval. “Het gaat erom dat je waarde toekent aan iets. In landen als Haïti en op de Filipijnen komt de vuilnisman het afval niet ophalen, je verbrandt het of gooit het weg. Het heeft geen waarde.” zegt Katz. Door de Plastic Bank is het zinvol geworden voor arme gezinnen in ontwikkelingslanden om plastic te verzamelen en dit om te zetten in geld. “Deze mensen kunnen nu het schoolgeld voor hun kinderen betalen, ze krijgen een lening om een eigen onderneming op te zetten, om te sparen. Dat is wat de Plastic Bank doet, waarde geven aan plastic, en daarmee ook waarde aan mensen waardoor ze uit de armoede komen.” De Plastic Bank gebruikt het ingezamelde plastic om te recyclen en het zo een tweede of derde leven te geven.

Nieuwe maatschappelijke Verlichting
De Prix Voltaire International wordt ieder jaar uitgereikt aan een persoon die zich op een duurzame manier inzet voor de samenleving. De Prix Voltaire International is vernoemd naar de Franse filosoof en vrijdenker François Voltaire die gezien wordt als symbool van de periode van de Verlichting. De moderne samenleving wil haar kwaliteit van leven verbeteren, maar is ook verantwoordelijk voor de negatieve effecten van groei en welvaart. Individuen die zich inzetten voor een nieuwe maatschappelijke Verlichting ter ondersteuning van een duurzame samenleving, door verandering, vernieuwing en ontwikkeling, tegen de dogma’s en moderne instituties in, maken kans op de onderscheiding. De organisatie omschrijft ze als ‘Friendly Fighters for Future proof Fundamentals’.

De nieuwe generatie in het licht zetten
Volgend jaar wordt naast de Prix Voltaire ook de l’Espoire uitgereikt, een stimuleringsprijs voor jonge mensen die gedreven zijn om zich in te zetten voor maatschappelijke verandering op een duurzame manier. Met de l’Espoire zet de organisatie de nieuwe generatie in het licht. David Katz vertelt dat millennials gedreven zijn om de duurzaamheidsproblemen op te lossen. “Zij zijn grootgeworden in de tijden van de economische crisis, met de klimaatproblemen. Zij willen het systeem veranderen en dat is wat we nodig hebben.”


The nominees for the Prix Voltaire International 2019 are:

Who will take over from Paul Polman?

The nominees for the Prix Voltaire 

Noordwijk – The three nominees for the prestigious Prix Voltaire International 2019 have been revealed. David Katz, Susan Burns and Mathis Wackernagel and Martín von Hildebrand are nominated for this award. An award that celebrates the person whose efforts have made a considerable impact on our society. The winner has made a unique contribution to building and maintaining a sustainable society. Paul Polman was the first to receive the Prix Voltaire award in 2018 for his lasting work as CEO of Unilever in transforming Unilever N.V. to become a sustainable company.

New social enlightenment.

The Prix Voltaire International is named after the famous French philosopher and free thinker François Voltaire who is seen as the symbol of the Enlightenment period. Modern society wants  to improve the quality of life but is in its pursuit of those goals also responsible for the negative effects of growth and prosperity. 

Individuals who make an important effort to create a new social enlightenment that supports a more sustainable society may win this award. They show change and innovation. Their efforts and activities goes against all ruling dogmas and modern constitutions. The organization describes them as ‘Friendly Fighters for Future proof Fundamentals’.

The nominees

 Katz (Canada) is founder of the Plastic Bank.  His goal is not to remove all plastic from the oceans but to prevent it from ending up there. He has developed a way to counteract this and simultaneously help people escape from poverty. By helping people setting up their own plastic recycling companies and guarding the value of the material. Plastic is given a chance for a second or even a third life while the families are given a chance to escape poverty in which they were trapped.

Susan Burns en Mathis Wackernagel (USA) are the inventors of the Global Footprint Network. Together with their team they, on a yearly basis, research how the world manages its natural resources and how the world responds to climate change. The day that the world runs out of its yearly deliverable natural resources comes earlier every year. In 2019 the date was July the 29th. With this statement the Global Footprint Network clearly proves that society asks much more of the Earth than she is able to provide.

Martín von Hildebrand (Columbia) and his Fundaçion Gaia Amazonas fight to protect the Colombian Amazon. In cooperation with the local inhabitants they want to establish a different way of area-development.  Thanks to his efforts an area of 25 million hectares of the Amazon has been preserved.

VN Sustainable Development Goals
Nyenrode Business University has created a shortlist of nominees for the Prix Voltaire 2019 largely based on the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. The independent and international jury chaired by Melanie Schultz van Haegen, CEO of Porticus and former minister for Transport, Public Works and Water Management, will decide who will be the winner of this year’s Prix Voltaire 2019. 

De Prix Voltaire will be presented on Friday November the 15th 2019 in Huis ter Duin in Noordwijk.