What if recycling were a global for-profit business with nearly unlimited growth potential? Actually, it is.

That was the message Mike Biddle, president and founder of MBA Polymers, Inc., brought to Stanford recently during a Stanford Woods Institute Environmental Forum titled “The Last Frontier of Recycling – Above-Ground Mining of Plastics From Some of the Largest and Most Complex Waste Streams in the World.”

“It’s not just about doing the right thing environmentally,” Biddle said. “There are huge economic benefits to recycling.”

Biddle’s company has plants in China, Austria and the U.K. that recover and recycle 1 million pounds of plastic – about the weight of a Boeing 747 – every day. Using a patented technology for extracting and recycling plastic from computers, printers, mobile phones, televisions, refrigerators and other forms of waste, MBA Polymers produces high-quality plastic pellets that are used to create a range of products from coffee machines to vacuums.

Around the world, people dispose of 500 billion pounds of plastic every year. Unlike with steel, plastic resists easy recycling because it is notoriously difficult to sort by type. As a result, tons of plastic, some of it 10 times more valuable than steel, goes to waste, according to Biddle.

To tap into these “mines” of material, MBA Polymers built its plants where it would have easy access to waste plastic and manufacturers who could use recycled plastic. Much of Europe, for example, has “take-back” legislation mandating the collection of plastic waste. Even though the U.S. is the largest per capita producer of plastic waste, much of that waste goes abroad to developing world “recycling centers” that sort out by hand a percentage of higher-value plastics and dispose of the rest in dumps, streams, oceans and elsewhere.

For his paradigm-shifting approach, Biddle has received more than the standard good business accolades. In addition to awards such as the prestigious 2012 Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Business, Biddle and MBA Polymers have received positive attention from major media outlets around the world.

Biddle is particularly encouraged by the response to his 2011 TED talk, which has received more than 1.5 million web views. In trying to explain its popularity compared to other environment-themed TED talks, Biddle speculated that people are tired of depressing environmental stories and hungry for good ideas and promising ways forward. “If you don’t offer solutions, people will turn off.”