How One Guy Is Recycling Unwanted Plastics To Help 'Pickers' In Developing Countries
Jul 16, 2012 12:52
Meet Michael Biddle, this year's recipient of the prestigious Gothenburg
Prize which focuses on sustainable development (Kofi Annan and Al Gore
are previous recipients).
Biddle is the founder of MBA Polymers, a 20-year-old company with three plants (in China, Austria, and the U.K). The company tackles recyclables that others don’t want, or don’t know how to deal with: plastics from coffee makers and toasters, TVs and cell phones, fittings from cars and trucks, and so on. Here he is talking about it on TED:
As Biddle explains to FastCoExist, these materials are actually more valuable and more plentiful than steel, but tend to get passed over since they're more difficult to separate from the waste stream. Most of them will end up in landfills, burned in incinerators, or shipped to dangerous and inefficient sorting plants in the developing world. Unlike metal, these plastics have infinite different colors, share
similar densities, and have no electrical or magnetic properties that
make sorting easier.
At MBA Polymers, they take waste from "shredders" that have already separated out metals, then isolate up to 40 plastic types in a multi-stage process to produce virgin plastic pellets that can be reused in the same way as traditional plastic, but with an 80% savings in energy, and a lower cost.
Biddle calls this "above the ground mining," and thinks there is a huge potential. He points out that the overall problem of un-recycled plastic is getting worse (computer and electronics waste is the fastest growing part of the world’s waste stream), and that while many developed countries now collect standard recyclables such as PET Coke bottles and milk jugs, the rates for other plastic types are almost nonexistent.
Biddle wants to improve collection of these types of neglected plastic in developing countries, where there are thousands of "pickers" who already sort through the trash looking for materials they can sell to make some extra money. The work is often unsafe, and the economic opportunity and environmental benefits aren’t maximized. Biddle’s currently looking at ideas for coordinating informal pickers into organized teams, possibly working in some kind of public-private partnership. And he thinks he can improve incomes, and health and safety standards, as a result.
Today's world makes it easy for anyone to find out who they are meeting before they even meet. So it makes sense that your in-laws to be would have checked you out in this manner: What does he like? What crazy stupid thing has he done, you wonder? Let's see if I'll pre-approve him before meeting him. Read more
As far as wingsuits go, there probably isn't any other sport which has extreme adrenaline pumping through your veins. But just flying around isn't enough. You've got to get on the down-low to do some crazy things. Literally. This daredevil flew so low he could high five a giant hand waiting for him. Read more
IKEA wanted to find out what kids really want for Christmas so they invited 10 families over to participate in an experiment. The children were asked to write two letters, one to Santa and another to their parents. But what they wrote to their parents, made them cry. Read more