RICHMOND, Calif.—MBA Polymers Inc., a plastics recycler that also processes rubber, plans to expand operations in the U.S. while moving its research and development to the United Kingdom.
The recycler is closing its R&D facility in Richmond because the plant is too small and the lease is up, said President Mike Biddle. The pilot-scale, 43,000-sq.-ft. plant was MBA's first facility and serves as the company's headquarters.
MBA is making the move because Europe does more recycling than the U.S. and offers more opportunities, at least in the short-term, Biddle said. MBA already has a 126,000-sq.-ft. facility in Worksop, England.
According to MBA, the Worksop plant is the "largest and most advanced plastics recycling plant in the world" that focuses on recovering plastics and rubber from shredder residue. It has processing capacity of 132 million to 176 million pounds per year.
Despite closing the Richmond plant, the company, which specializes in recycling durable goods from difficult waste streams like electronics and auto-shredder residue, is planning to make a big move in the U.S. market.
MBA plans to build full processing plants in the U.S. once it develops sufficient U.S. sourcing.
Biddle said the move is in response to recent developments in the U.S. and abroad, namely:
• The Environmental Protection Agency giving the green light to mining plastics from the more than 10 billion pounds of auto shredder residue generated annually in the U.S.
• Electronics recycling is also continuing to grow in the U.S., despite a lack of legislation like that in Europe, which requires electronics to be recycled, he said.
• The EPA estimates more than 65 billion pounds of plastics are discarded in municipal solid waste streams. And single-stream municipal recycling programs and mixed recycling is growing dramatically in the U.S., he said.
MBA has a facility in Guangzhou, China, to recycle waste electrical and electronic equipment. The costs of operating that plant have gone up for a variety of reasons, including the higher cost of importing material and policy changes.
In response, Biddle said MBA is encouraging its customers to upgrade their materials before shipping.