In their new book, That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum offer a range of examples of how America can do better than it has done in the recent past. One such example highlights Mike Biddle as an innovator who could build recycling jobs in the US. Biddle, founder of MBA Polymers, has invented processes for separating plastics from piles of junked computers, appliances and cars and recycling it into plastic pellets. He has facilities in EU and China but a tiny headquarter here in CA because he cannot get enough materials in the US.
He employs 25 people in California and 250 overseas. Biddle says, "The potential mines in America are hands-down the biggest in the world, but there are no national collection law that gives me the scale of raw material we need to make our process economically viable here."
Biddle attempted to bring Europe’s producer responsibility laws over to the US, laws that would require manufacturers to recycle anything with a battery or a cord here in the US. The thinking behind Producer Responsibility is that since manufacturers profit from their product, they should also be responsible for their product at the end of life. These laws would assure Biddle the supply of raw plastic junk that he needs. However, Congress is still not ready for such a law here in America.
Biddle's story illustrates the missed opportunities in failing to pass seemingly common sense policies. By shifting the end-of-life management cost from consumers and local government to producers (who are more efficient and knowledgable), we can create economic opportunities domestically without dumping our garbage overseas or in our own backyards.
Read the book excerpt, featuring MBA Polymers.