Joel Tasche, Founder of Cleanhub – Ep. 72

Video Highlights:

About Joel Tasche & Cleanhub:

Joel Tasche is the founder and CEO of CleanHub, a startup that aims to preserve and protect the world’s oceans by collecting and managing multi-layer packaging. 

This nasty packaging is a type of plastic that is almost impossible to recycle using traditional technologies. 80% of the plastic waste that ends up in the oceans is so-called flexible packaging or multilayer packaging, like chip packets, sauce sachets, etc. He’s raised over 4 million Euros for his concept, getting the support of many big brands along the way.

Full Unedited Audio Conversation:

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2:06 – “I grew up at Lake Constance, which is the biggest lake in Germany, and usually German kids start playing soccer or football at a certain age, and for me it was sailing…I spent most of my time sailing and being in and around the lake and skiing in winter. So I was always out in nature a lot and I appreciate nature a lot.”

2:56 – “I started to surf and would then also travel quite a bit…went a lot to South and Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and already back then – 2012–13 – wherever you would go you would find plastic… in the ocean when you went surfing… on the beach or if you climbed the volcano – there was plastic pollution everywhere.”

04:48 – “On a piece of paper [I] wrote down, ‘What are the things that are important to me?’ And for me, there was community, being surrounded by people that you like… being at the ocean, being able to do what I like to do, which was surfing. And at the same time, I felt like I wanted to use this privileged childhood, this privileged adolescence that I had, all the things that I was able to learn, to kind of build something that is more important.”

10:30 – “The latest studies that we refer to state that around 80% of the material that enters the oceans is flexible and multilayer packaging. Flexible packaging is, for example, if you buy tomatoes and they are wrapped in plastic… multilayer packaging is, for example, your chips bag.” 

12:01 – [On the difference between recycling and down-cycling] “Recycling is really keeping it in the same application – so bottle-to-bottle and there are statistics that say it’s around 2% of all plastic that was produced was reused or recycled again in the same application. As soon as you take this material and turn it into something outside of its original application…that’s down-cycling. So if you take the water bottle and produce a park bench out of it, that’s a down-cycling process …and after that thing was a park bench, it’s most likely not going to be recycled into anything else again.” 

13:48 – “This is what people need to understand. Nobody puts packaging on the market to annoy anyone or to say ‘I want to harm the environment’, but it’s because we, as consumers, also got used to a certain way…I don’t believe that it’s purely the consumer’s fault, I don’t believe it’s purely the corporate’s fault – it’s a system error.” 

20:50 – “The actual recycling industry works much better in countries like India or Indonesia – nothing that still has value is thrown away. And if I reflect on how my grandma behaved…she went through the Second World War, she knew what it meant to not live in abundance like we do – and she would keep the gift wrap at home and iron them out and use them again, because this generation was just not used to throwing stuff away…The same thing applies to a lot of the more developing countries, where GDP is not that high and anything that still has a value will be collected and will be sold.” 

28:01 – [On disposing of waste via the cement industry] “I’m not saying that this is a sustainable way of working, but it is a bridge technology. It is better than sending it to one of those unmanaged landfills.”

31:00 – “What I want the world to look like if we zoom out, or if we go into the year 2032, is that every household along the coastlines in the global south…is connected to a functioning waste management system. And that means that someone comes on a weekly or biweekly basis, picks up your dry waste, brings it to a sorting station where the waste streams are segregated into homogeneous waste streams that can be recycled as much as possible, and whatever cannot be recycled is taken care of in a responsible way.”

33:20 – “It’s basically impossible to build a perfect system in an imperfect world.” 

45:41 – “There’s a saying in German – ‘Die Reise ist das Ziel’ – ‘the journey is the goal’ or ‘the path is the goal.’ You will never reach perfection. And once I realized that, it puts you into a really nice position because you can say whatever I’m going to do from here on forward, it’s going to make things at least slightly better. You don’t have to be perfect, but ‘get to work.’” 

47:48 – “I can’t guarantee that talking to you will produce any kind of positive effect. You can’t guarantee that you’ll change the waste industry. But what you can guarantee is that you are living a life much more in alignment with your core values as a human being. And it sounds to me like you’re getting enormous satisfaction from that process.” [Ross] 

47:55 – “Everyone has these days where you’re not happy, where you’re not aligned with your core values but those days when you truly are, those days when you really do what you like to do – they are really, really nice days.” 

48:50 – “If you’re unhappy with a situation – act. It doesn’t really matter if it’s the climate, if it’s the environment, if it’s your personal life, but take action.” 

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