MBA has won the prestigious Daniel Eberhardt Environmental Award at the 2014 Global Plastics Environment Conference (GPEC) in Orlando, Florida. The award is the highest accolade to be bestowed by conference organisers, the Society of Plastics Engineers, and recognises MBA’s 22-year commitment to recycling plastic polymers and raising awareness of the importance of tackling plastic pollution. MBA’s founder, Dr Mike Biddle, who gave a keynote address on ocean plastic waste, accepted the award on behalf of the company.

“I’m honoured to receive the Daniel Eberhardt award for our contribution to advancing plastics recycling technologies,” says Biddle. “Every step we’ve taken since we first started out has been driven by a desire to cut plastic waste from our world and transform it into high quality raw materials for use in new products. This kind of circular thinking is vital to conserving natural resources, preventing environmental pollution and ensuring a good quality of life for future generations.”

Biddle founded MBA Polymers in 1992 from his California garage, convinced that there must be a better way to deal with the plastic waste that clogs up our oceans and pervades our landscapes. The company has since grown to become a world leader in recovering post-consumer plastics from complex waste streams – including end-of-life vehicles and e-waste – and transforming them into high quality secondary raw materials. It can process more than 175,000 tonnes of plastic per year at its three high-tech plants in the UK, Austria and China, and works with some of the world’s largest manufacturers to close the loop by offering them a high performing, lower carbon alternative to virgin plastics.

“The award is all the more special because I knew Dan Eberhardt, the founder of MRC Plastics,” explains Biddle. “Dan was one of the first major mono-stream recyclers in the US, and well respected among the plastics recycling community.”

GPEC outlined MBA’s outstanding achievements for polymer recycling, technological innovation, impact and commitment to education among the chief reasons for its decision to present the company with the award. “MBA has gone beyond pioneering new technologies to become a true champion for plastics environmentalism,” says Susan Kozora, IAC Eng. Mgr/GPEC 2014 Chair, Society of Plastics Engineers. “In particular, Dr Biddle is an outstanding spokesperson on the topics of the circular economy and the need to reduce waste, protect our oceans and make the most of our resources. We’d like to congratulate him and his global team on a great achievement and wish MBA well as it looks to expand and increase its processing capacity.”

“Based on MBA’s relentless and un-matched commitment to recycling and environmental solutions for plastics, they are awarded the prestigious Daniel Eberhardt Environmental Stewardship Award,” said Dr. P. Subramanian, the Chairman of the GPEC Environmental Awards Committee and a Fellow of the Society of Plastics Engineers, commenting as he presented Dr. Biddle with the award.

The theme of this year’s GPEC was ‘It’s a green world after all’. The conference, held on 12th-14th March, focused on recycling, reclamation and bioplastics, and welcomed speakers from all corners of the plastics industry to discuss pressing challenges and present inspirational ideas and innovations. Other award winners included Ford, Coca-Cola and Dow Chemicals.

For more information on MBA Polymers, please click here. To hear Dr Mike Biddle speaking on the pressing need to recycle plastics, please click here.

Recycling polymers presents a significant opportunity to companies seeking to unlock more value from materials in their supply chains, reveals a new report produced by the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) and McKinsey. Entitled ‘Towards the Circular Economy: Accelerating the scale-up across global supply chains’, the report highlights a variety of opportunities for companies to make the switch from linear to circular business models, with particular emphasis on creating circular flows of major raw materials. The EMF estimates that the value to the global economy of transitioning to circular models could reach $1 trillion annually by 2025.

High potential materials

Polymers are singled out as offering ‘high potential’ to companies seeking to maximise productivity, reduce resource use and eliminate waste in global supply chains. They exist in high volumes and currently lack systematic reuse solutions, the report suggests. Additionally, separating different polymers from complex waste streams and transforming them into raw materials with the same quality and performance, is challenging.

Identifying polymers

Whereas the process for sorting metals is fairly straightforward, due to their distinct physical properties (such as density, magnetic properties, melting points or electrical conductivity), separating polymers is tougher as they have few differentiating properties. They do have distinct bonding features at the molecular level, but exploiting this means investing in advanced separating techniques.

MBA Polymers was cited in the report as one of the few players worldwide to have invested in industrial recycling processes capable of sorting certain plastic polymers. We offer high quality recovered ABS, HIPS, PP, HDPE and filled PP, for example.

The issue of polymer blends is highlighted too. These are currently sold on as mixed by-product plastics, as the contamination associated with blends almost inevitably results in lower material quality. The report also mentions the importance of good quality feedstock, which may itself require some sorting prior to arriving at a processing plant.

Collaborating with suppliers

Many companies, including Philips, Electrolux and Kingfisher, are working to streamline the volume of polymers they use and cut down on toxic chemicals, while maintaining product performance and complying with rigorous legislation (such as the EU’s REACH programme and the US EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act). Some are working with partners to boost collection rates, once a product has reached end-of-life, and collaborating with leading recyclers.

For example, Kingfisher is creating its first closed loop product, a new power drill. Working with its drill manufacturer in China and MBA Polymers, the company is building circularity into the product right from the product design stage. It plans to use recycled plastics and establish a reverse cycle to collect end-of-life drills for refurbishment in Europe or recycling at MBA’s China plant, where the plastic will be recycled into high quality plastic resin for new drills.

To view the full WEF report, please click here.