Two thousand bins made from recycled trash will now be used to collect recyclables. Two thousand bins made from recycled trash will now be used to collect recyclables. Two thousand bins made from recycled trash will now be used to collect recyclables. (Photo: Courtesy UBQ)

Hummus tycoon helps Virginia residents with groundbreaking recycling idea

Sabra founder Yehuda Pearl may have just invented the world's most eco-friendly piece of plastic.

Yehuda Pearl knows what people like to eat. We have Pearl to thank for the ubiquity of hummus sections at nearly every grocery store. After all, he is the founder of the Sabra Dipping Company, which supplies nearly two-thirds of the American hummus market.

But there's something else Pearl is keenly aware of, and that's what you throw away in your kitchen trash: chicken bones, tomatoes, egg cartons, even diapers. Much of these household items end up as part of the 2 billion tons of garbage that we toss into landfills each year. But what if you could take all your household garbage and magically transform it into something that looked and acted like plastic? What if it could be converted into a material that could be used to manufacture everything from chairs to flowerpots?

Pearl's new startup, UBQ Materials, can do just that.

At their factory in southern Israel, they take everything from banana peels to leftover hamburgers and run it through their patented conversion process. The waste is first dried which, among other things, eliminates any foul odor. It's then ground up into tiny particles to form the basis of the composite material. They call it the greenest thermosplastic material on the planet.

Nobel Prize chemist Roger Kornberg is an advisor to the company, as are scientists from Israel and Denmark. The Israel-based firm was recognized by Fast Company as a "World Changing Idea" for 2019. Tato Bigio, Pearl's partner and CEO of UBQ, acknowledges that the concept “sounds too good to be true.”

Their product is now being put to the test as it makes its U.S. debut. A large trash collector in Virginia has ordered 2,000 recycling bins made out of the UBQ material. So yes, these trash bins are actually made out of recycled trash. "It's a game-changer," said Kim Hynes of the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority. "We're really looking forward to it."

The idea for the collaboration was born during a trip that Virginia lawmakers made to Israel in 2018, much in the same way a trip to Israel led New York's governor to search for Israeli technologies that would help his state.

With any luck, the Virginia deal is more than just about the initial order of 2,000 bins. The Israel-based startup is looking to expand and open a manufacturing facility in the U.S., potentially creating hundreds of jobs and pumping millions into the local economy. The UBQ factory could possibly end up in Virginia, where Pearl's Sabra Hummus already has a production plant and ties to the community.

"Coming from many years in the food industry, I know about food waste and I understand the impact that it has on the environment," Pearl said. "But I never dreamt that I'd be involved in a venture that takes that very same waste and turns it into a reusable material."

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Hummus tycoon helps Virginia residents with groundbreaking recycling idea
Sabra founder Yehuda Pearl may have just invented the world's most eco-friendly piece of plastic.