Former Owens Corning CEO Mike Thaman is joining recycling technology firm UBQ Materials as its CEO.
Thaman retired from Owens Corning, a leading construction materials firm based in Toledo, Ohio, in early 2019 and will step down as chairman of the firm's board next month. He had been with Owens Corning since 1992 and had been CEO since 2009.
Going from a firm with $7 billion in annual sales to a plastics startup will be a big change for Thaman, but in a March 16 phone interview with Plastics News, he said he's looking forward to the challenge.
"At Owens Corning, we had a strong focus on sustainability, which is a passion of mine," Thaman said. "We did a lot of great things, and UBQ has that same chance to have a positive impact."
UBQ's production method uses unsorted municipal solid waste as its primary feedstock, diverting it from landfills and reducing emissions. According to the firm's website, using 1 ton of UBQ material prevents the generation of up to 15 tons of carbon dioxide.
"UBQ was looking for someone to grow their technology into a business," Thaman said. "Everyone wants recycling to be a success, but sorting and cleaning costs can be hard to recover.
"We can take municipal waste and convert it into plastic composites," he added. "The market is going to need multiple technologies to handle solid waste, and UBQ can help."
UBQ, based in Tel Aviv and New York, operates a pilot plant in Israel. The firm has supplied more than 2,000 waste containers made of its recycled plastic to the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority.
In a March 17 news release, UBQ officials said that their material — also called UBQ — has been successfully used in injection molding, extrusion, compression molding and 3D printing. They added that their material has been tested and proven compatible with other plastics, including polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC, polystyrene and ABS.
Officials also said that UBQ, available in powder or pellet form, is ideal for a range of markets such as consumer goods, building products, logistics, material handling, decking, flooring and automotive. The material has already been used in shopping carts, hangers, pipes, panels, pallets, bricks, trash cans, trays and auto parts, they added.
UBQ was founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Yehuda Pearl and Tato Bigio, who had experience in Israel's renewable energies and industrial sector. Bigio had served as CEO of UBQ since its inception and now will continue as CEO of UBQ Israel.
"[Thaman's] decision to join our company and lead its expansion clearly demonstrates our ability to scale UBQ Materials," said Pearl, who sold his Sabra Hummus brand to PepsiCo in 2008. "We are sure that Mike's proven track record and demonstrated character will be instrumental in enabling us to eventually have UBQ fulfill its mission to become ubiquitous as an alternative to plastic."
In the news release, officials said that UBQ recently reached a deal with automaker Daimler AG to use UBQ in auto parts and with Arcos Dorados Holdings, the largest franchisee of McDonald's in the world, to use UBQ in restaurant items in McDonald's across Latin America and the Caribbean.
Thaman will be based in the U.S. and build a global team, with an initial focus on North America where UBQ sees potential for significant and rapid expansion. Bigio told Plastics News late last year that UBQ hopes to add a U.S. production site in Virginia and that the firm is also looking at possible production sites in Ohio, Michigan, Texas and North Carolina.
Thaman "has been hired to scale the company to become a leading player in the circular economy that aims to transform waste into a sustainable and useful resource, dramatically decreasing carbon emissions," the UBQ board said in the news release.