U.S. Bank, First Mile continue to reduce ocean-bound plastic, build communities

November 14, 2023
Woman standing in front of a collection of plastic bottles.
Nadine stands in front of a collection of plastic bottles.

Eco-friendly U.S. Bank Visa® debit cards make a difference to our oceans and in communities around the world, one card at a time

On Aug. 14, 2021, millions of Haitians woke-up and proceeded about their morning, not imagining that a disaster would soon devastate their country. At 8:29 a.m. local time, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck, claiming the lives of more than 1,200 people and destroying much of the country’s infrastructure. This was not the first major earthquake to befall the country. A decade earlier, a similar earthquake left more than 220,000 dead and roughly 300,000 injured.

First Mile ®, a private non-profit partnership between Thread International PBC INC and WORK, recognized that recovery would require more than just temporary emergency relief; the people of Haiti needed hope, jobs and sustainable options to rid their country of the trash and debris that littered their streets, canals and beaches. First Mile specializes in living income, human rights, recyclers and trash by creating solutions for recycled material supply chains in waste collector communities. They are present in more than a dozen countries and, most recently, low-income communities in the United States. 

Working with members of the Haitian community, First Mile created a human-powered recyclable plastic supply chain that provides jobs for the people of Haiti and enables entrepreneurs to create real solutions for the country’s waste crisis. Today, the network is made up of hundreds of waste collectors making an income while diverting much of the recyclable waste from waterways and landfills to give them another life in products, like the ecofriendly U.S. Bank debit card.

This reclaimed ocean-bound plastic, or ROBP, is used in the eco-friendly Diving Turtle and Serene Beach U.S. Bank debit card designs. It’s estimated that for every million cards produced, more than one ton of plastic will be diverted from entering the world's oceans, waterways and shorelines. Through our Impact Partnership with First Mile, U.S. Bank makes an annual $50,000 commitment towards empowering the nonprofit to implement programs to address essential needs and operations in Haiti to grow the volume of material used for the eco-friendly debit cards.

Customers are on board with this initiative, with 27% of all U.S. Bank debit cardmembers choosing the eco-friendly Diving Turtle or Serene Beach design, putting these two debit cards at the top of the U.S. Bank list of most popular designs. 

Nadine’s story

Nadine, a widow and mother of six, began working as a First Mile waste collector to provide additional income for her family after the loss of her husband. While her journey started with collecting bottles, Nadine was ultimately able to buy a home and purchase land to start her collection center. 

Today, her collection business employs a staff of nine, as well as 30 collectors who gather an average of 18,000 pounds of recyclable plastic a month. With the knowledge and support she received from First Mile, Nadine was able to create jobs in her community, pay for her children to go to school and send her eldest daughter to college, a significant accomplishment in a country where less than 1% of the population attend college.

First Mile recently partnered with NABU, a technology-enabled publisher of multilingual children’s books, on a children’s book celebrating Nadine’s story. The story is now widely shared within the Haiti recycled materials supply chain, addressing the stigma of waste collection as a profession, and bringing dignity to the work.

You can read Nadine’s story in the children’s book about her journey, “My mom the waste collector,” using the QR code below and downloading the NABU app.

U.S. Bank team member supports First Mile at work and on the trail 

Going the extra mile is a well-known phrase to U.S. Bank Product Manager Ted Gamble. In a 2021 project call with First Mile, he began a journey that took him from exchanging smiles on video calls to logging miles on the running trail — with far reaching impact. 

WORK is the nonprofit entity in the First Mile private-nonprofit partnership. It’s mission to “accompany families in Haiti out of poverty through good, dignified jobs” appealed to Gamble. 

“Not only does this partnership keep plastic out of the ocean,” he said, “but it does it in a way that gives the front-line workers ways to support their families and communities through education, health care, safety workshops and livable wages. That was something I wanted to support.”

Gamble discovered he could support WORK’s mission through Run Across May, a fundraiser that challenges individuals and teams to run 200 or more miles to raise funds and awareness for the organization. He joined the race that year, clocking 222 miles in his hometown of Dundas, Minnesota. He ran the event again in 2022 for a total of 442 miles – an achievement that deepens his connection to First Mile and its mission — right alongside U.S. Bank.

1. CPI Card Group, “Payment Industry Introduces Recovered Ocean-Bound Plastic Card” (2020)

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