Thursday, September 29th, 2011

VOTE NOW to Recognize Outstanding Innovation in Plastics

The Economist magazine annually presents its Innovation Awards to, “People who map our future by pushing themselves to break down boundaries.” The list of winners includes innovators such as Steve Jobs, Ratan Tata, J. Craig Venter, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Sumio Iijima, the developer of carbon nanotubes.

In addition to this year’s awards, which are given in seven categories, the Economist will recognize the top innovator of the past decade, who will be chosen by popular vote from among the

annual winners of the past ten years. If you’re in plastics, you have a candidate in this race, an excellent one in fact.

Michael Biddle, founder of MBA Polymers (Richmond, CA), received the 2010 Economist Innovation Award for the category Energy and the Environment.  Getting started in his garage in 1992, Dr Mike Biddle was determined to prove that plastics could be recycled from complex, mixed waste streams. We in the plastics industry should recognize just how difficult a challenge he was taking on, and we, and the rest of humanity, should be glad he succeeded.

Even today most people looking at mixed waste would compare that goal to something like trying to backstroke up Niagara Falls, but Mike Biddle and his team developed the technology and opened a small-scale production facility in 1997 that recycled commingled waste from around the world. Today the company is a recognized leader in recycling plastics from end-of-life durable goods such as computers, autos, appliances, and consumer electronics, and besides its headquarters facility in Richmond, CA, it has recycling facilities in China and Austria, and since late 2010 has a joint venture in the UK with metal recycler EMR Ltd to produce post-consumer plastics from automotive shredder residue.

MBA Polymers’ website says those are the first of many plants to come. It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of recycling plastics. When people turn plastics into litter the durability and recyclability of the material is wasted. What Mike Biddle innovated helps keep that from happening. The technology is profoundly innovative, and far more valuable to humanity than the latest electronic gizmo, no matter how cool it is. Plastics professionals can proudly vote for Dr. Biddle, and you have until October 14th to do so. I just did.

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