Blazing the plastics recycling trail

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Courtesy of Recycling International

In the past year, MBA Polymers has opened two facilities showcasing its high-tech recycling process for plastics from end-of-life durable goods. Those plants, in China and Austria, are just the beginning for this plastics recycling pioneer; over the next two years, the company is hoping to announce at least one additional facility in Europe as well as the development of another operation in Asia.

During Chinaplas 2006, Asia’s largest plastics and rubber exhibition which was held in Shanghai, few international manufacturers displayed anything as revolutionary as the plastics recycling process depicted in photos at the modest booth of MBA Polymers Inc. The simple truth is that MBA operates two of the most advanced facilities in the world for recycling engineering plastics from durable products. The first -at Nansha, near Guangzhou in China - came on line in November 2005. The other, at Kematen in Austria, started up in March this year. The company also operates a pilot-scale processing line at its headquarters in Richmond, California, USA.

Since its formation in 1994, MBA has spent more than US$ 30 million on developing an advanced mechanical process for sorting such mixed engineering plastics and extruding them into virginquality recycled resin. MBA is determined to be the answer for manufacturers and recyclers pressured by e-recycling regulations such as the European Union’s Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).

‘We want to grab our share of the mountains of material everywhere,’ says MBA’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Mike Biddle as he watches the crowd from the company’s booth, ‘because right now it’s being grabbed by others, like incinerators and landfills.’ In addition, MBA is determined to be an answer for manufacturers who need high-quality plastics for consumer goods and other applications. That is one of the major reasons why MBA opened its first commercial-scale plant in China. The country is ‘the fastest-growing market for plastics in the world’, Dr Biddle states, ‘and Guangzhou is one of the most important manufacturing centres in the world. Our system allows us to be competitive there.’

Getting the ball rolling

The Nansha Economic Development Zone is halfway between Guangzhou and Shenzhen in China’s fast-growing southern province of Guangdong. Along the wide boulevard that leads to the development zone, Toyota is building a huge factory. GE Plastics is constructing its own massive facility along a river bank just past that spot.  Alongside it, on the other side of a narrow inlet, is a long, 20 000 square metre building that houses MBA’s joint-venture Chinese operation, named Guangzhou GISE-MBA New Plastics Technology Co. Ltd - or GMP for short.

Standing between the GE Plastics and GMP plants, MBA’s Global Director for Product Development and Sales Darren Arola notes that the company originally planned to build this facility in Japan. That country’s passage of e-recycling legislation early in the new Millennium made it a natural site for MBA’s process, he explains. But several factors - including high land costs and difficulties in establishing a joint-venture partnership - kept those plans from fruition.

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