SHFT: Short film explores how Mike Biddle cracked the code of plastics recycling


MBA Polymers’ very own ‘plastics pioneer’, Dr. Mike Biddle, is the subject of a short film celebrating his role in the revolution that will help future-proof the use of plastics.

The film is part of the ‘Big SHFT series’ which focuses on 10 American environmental trailblazers whose innovation and passion is helping create a more sustainable future for us all. Dr Biddle’s film celebrates his foresight and persistence in ‘cracking the code’ of how to separate complex plastics waste so that it can be recycled and re-used to create a sustainable, environmentally friendly supply of plastic.

The film charts his progress as a thought leader in the plastics field, right from his epiphany when while working in high-end plastics he realised that “we’re going to run out of the stuff to make our stuff…There has to be a way to re-use these plastics.”

Despite the obvious validity of these concerns, his desire to challenge the idea that plastic couldn’t be recycled was not greeted with enthusiasm. The huge challenges inherent in recycling complex plastic waste meant that many were sceptical about whether it was even possible. When Dr. Biddle went to his then bosses and explained that he thought the company should be exploring how plastics could be recycled, he met with an unenthusiastic response, with one manager quipping that the company “didn’t hire a PhD in Plastics to work on garbage”.

Undeterred by such scepticism, Mike decided to go it alone and to start “testing everything on the planet”, admitting “It took faith, because we didn’t actually know how we were going to do it.”

Following extensive testing and investigation, Mike and his team discovered that by deploying a range of techniques seen in everything from food processing to mining technology, it was possible to separate complex plastic waste so that it could be recycled and used again in a way that could create a useful plastic product for industry which was of a consistently high quality.

A new life for plastics

Talking about his work Dr. Biddle comments: “We believe we’re giving materials a new life. When we first started working on this, plastics recycling across the world stood at less than five per cent. What a waste of valuable resources”

Thanks to the work of Dr.  Biddle and his namesake company, such valuable resources need go to waste no longer. MBA Polymers is now a world leader at producing post-consumer recycled plastics from end-of-life durable goods and is making a huge positive impact on the environment.  By diverting post consumer plastics from landfill or incineration, the business now saves 80 per cent of the energy required to create new plastic and between one and three tonnes of CO2 for each tonne of virgin plastics it replaces.

Dr. Biddle’s film is one of a 10 part documentary series presented in conjunction with the Ford Motor Company and hosted on SHFT’s website, a multi-media platform founded by film producer Peter Glatzer and actor and filmmaker Adrian Grenier. The website aims to celebrate more sustainable ways of living through showcasing video, design, art and culture.

Discussing the films Adrian Grenier commented: “Innovation is not dead in America, but it’s not just about innovation in industry. It is about innovation of the heart and the spirit. You’ll find a lot more social entrepreneurs cropping up in America these days. We’re very excited about that. Those are the types of stories we want to highlight.”

Other environmentalists featured in the SHFT series include Van Jones, a lawyer and activist who is America’s leading advocate for green jobs and Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse, the ‘queen bee’ of the sustainable food movement in America.
View the video here