Blog > Universal Plastic: Utilising blockchain tech & AI to regenerate the oceans

Universal Plastic: Utilising blockchain tech & AI to regenerate the oceans

The fusion of blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the key themes of the London Blockchain Conference 2024—specifically, how these two technologies create powerful change with massive social benefits.

One such case is how Universal Plastic is using the two technologies to incentivise ocean cleanups. CEO Alvaro Bravo took to the London Blockchain Conference 2024 stage to explain what the company is doing and why it uses blockchain technology to verify everything along the way.

Universal Plastic - A Startup With a Mission to Clean Up The Oceans

Growing up near the ocean with parents who were sailors instilled a love of the ocean in Alvaro Bravo from a young age. As he grew up, he began to notice the scale of the plastic pollution problem, and he and his fellow surfers and ocean enthusiasts began to clean it up and educate people about how to prevent it.

However, there’s only so much a few passionate people can do. Bravo initially started a sustainable surf clothing brand to raise funds for the cleanup efforts, but he soon discovered that it wouldn’t be enough given the magnitude of the problem. Worse still, he realised that many of the claims his suppliers were making about sustainability were bogus or unverifiable.

A marine engineer, surfer, and entrepreneur, Bravo is one of the few people perfectly positioned to build a startup to handle the plastic pollution problem, and he has done just that. Universal Plastic has created a digital tool utilising blockchain technology and artificial intelligence to enable ocean cleanups on a global scale.

The cleanup efforts are funded by companies that want to boost their environmental credibility, while the people on the ground can use the Universal Plastic app to upload content proving they have done what they promised. It’s a win-win-win for companies, people passionate about environmental sustainability, and the oceans themselves.

The 3 Pillars of Universal Plastic

UP uses blockchain to ensure data integrity and reduce friction related to third parties involved in the auditing process. AI reduces the time required for data input and makes the process more user-friendly. Everything is presented in the digital app in such a way as to incentivise users to verify cleanups—pictures and content play a key role here.

How would it all work in practice? An ocean advocate in India could upload a picture of plastic pollution to the app, seek funding for the cleanup, and then upload pictures, videos, and other content to verify it has been done. All of this comes with a guarantee of refunds if the company that funds the cleanup isn’t happy with the results.

Universal Plastic also makes use of Ocean Notarized Digital Assets (ONDAs) to showcase data such as financial allocation and the ecological and social impact of each cleanup. For example, it can show how several tonnes of plastic were cleaned up over an area of 4 square kilometers.

With UP’s Blue Guarantee, every kilo of plastic collected is verified. The metrics set by the project funders must be met, and those are verified, too.

In a nutshell, Universal Plastic allows people to create content about a social cause they believe in, incentivises companies to fund cleanups, uses AI and blockchain to streamline and verify everything, and increases engagement via the social nature of its application. In fact, post London Blockchain Conference 2024 event survey shows that the responders working with Universal Plastic have already removed 100kg of plastic from the ocean.

This is What Blockchain is For

As Universal Plastic demonstrates, entrepreneurs are beginning to realise the awesome power of blockchain technology to create scalable solutions to global problems.

In almost every instance, it’s about peer-to-peer communication and the ability to verify data. The timestamped records on the blockchain eliminate the need to trust any third party since everything is verifiable on immutable ledgers that no one has the power to tamper with.

At the heart of blockchain startups, tackling a wide variety of problems is one more significant problem: data integrity. Whether verifying the current state of a computer network to detect intrusions or ensuring ocean cleanups have occurred to the agreed standards, blockchain technology is the solution the world has been waiting for.

While blockchain’s potential has existed for over a decade, it has taken entrepreneurs time to understand just how powerful blockchain is, its abilities and limitations, and how they can use it to solve the problems they want to tackle. As the thick fog of misinformation surrounding blockchain technology finally lifts, its power to create verifiable records becomes clear.

Combined with AI, which can make everything easier and more efficient, the sky is the limit for what blockchain technology can be used for going forward. Universal Plastic is leading the way in showing how blockchain’s next-generation verification abilities can be used to build profitable companies that create a better world. 

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