Mike Biddle

Plastics recycler
Discarded plastic, too often, ends up buried or burned, not recycled (it's just too complicated). But Mike Biddle has found a way to close the loop.

Why you should listen

Throwing water bottles into the recycling bin doesn’t begin to address the massive quantity of postconsumer plastic that ends up in landfills and the ocean. Because it’s so difficult to separate the various kinds of plastics – up to 20 kinds per product – that make up our computers, cell phones, cars and home appliances, only a small fraction of plastics from complex waste streams are recycled, while the rest is tossed. In 1992, Mike Biddle, a plastics engineer, set out to find a solution. He set up a lab in his garage in Pittsburg, California, and began experimenting with complex-plastics recycling, borrowing ideas from such industries as mining and grain processing.

Since then, Biddle has developed a patented 30-step plastics recycling system that includes magnetically extracting metals, shredding the plastics, sorting them by polymer type and producing graded pellets to be reused in industry – a process that takes less than a tenth of the energy required to make virgin plastic from crude oil. Today, the company he cofounded, MBA Polymers, has plants in China and Austria, and plans to build more in Europe, where electronics-waste regulation (which doesn’t yet have an equivalent in the US) already ensures a stream of materials to exploit – a process Biddle calls “above-ground mining.”

He says: "I consider myself an environmentalist. I hate to see plastics wasted. I hate to see any natural resource – even human time – wasted.”

What others say

“Biddle's company ventures into lands where few recyclers -- who stick to the safer world of steel and aluminum -- dare to tread.” — myhero.com

Mike Biddle’s TED talks

Quotes from Mike Biddle

The United Nations estimates that there’s about 85 billion pounds a year of electronics waste that gets discarded around the world each and every year.
Mike Biddle
TEDGlobal 2011 • 813K views Oct 2011
Ingenious, Inspiring
What are we to do about this space-age material, these plastics? It’s far too valuable and far too abundant to keep putting back in the ground or send up in smoke.
Mike Biddle
TEDGlobal 2011 • 813K views Oct 2011
Ingenious, Inspiring