By: Adie Dolan
Only about 5% of the world’s plastic—a material, as we know, that is highly demanded and carelessly discarded—is recycled. The majority of plastic waste floats around the world as undegradable refuse, piling up for someone else to deal with.
Someone other than who produced it.
Someone other than who consumed it.
Many developing countries have been burdened with the e-waste of developed countries. Workers usually sort through the durable waste for metals, or commonly burn plastics in buildings known as “burn-houses” to get to metal waste. Many don’t attempt to sort plastic. However, citizens confounded by e-waste in the slums of Mumbai, India have tried categorizing plastics using a “burn-and-sniff” technique; workers burn chunks of plastic, inhale its toxic fumes and pile it based on smell. However, none of these recycling methods are good for environmental health, personal health, or produce sustainable products.
Until recently, the only way to reuse plastic has been through down cycling: “the process of converting useless products into new products of lesser quality and reduced functionality.” While down cycling is better than no cycling, it still is not the most efficient way to deal with the amount of plastic waste that our world has produced.
Mike Biddle, aka the Garbage Man, attacked this problem. While it turns out that recycling plastic materials is much more difficult than recycling other materials this did not deter him. Biddle has concocted a recycling process, combining methods from miners to those working in developing slums, to “close-the-loop.” Through his technique, he is able to reproduce plastic 99% true to its “virgin form.”
But, according to Popular Science reporter, Paul Kvinta, Biddle insists on keeping his process a secret. Biddle started working from his garage and has invested $150 million to research and develop his technique. Currently his process is employed in three major branches around the globe. While he has invented quite a miraculous procedure that has won him over a handful of awards, should he keep this methodology to himself?
Does he plan to conquer the world’s trash alone?
Or could he patent his method? Should he?
Whatever his plan, he has done some really dirty work and has created a process worth sharing.
Read about his story, in this article from Popular Science here,
and learn more about his plastic sorting process in his TED talk here.
Dont miss Ann Arbor’s ideas worth spreading! Catch the live stream feed of TEDxUofM’s 2014 “Against the Grain” Conference this Saturday at 9:30 am!