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Liz Gyekye

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UBQ Materials hires former Owens Corning CEO

Veteran Fortune 500 CEO Mike Thaman has been named  CEO of UBQ Materials, a startup that converts unsorted household trash into an eco-friendly thermoplastic composite material. The announcement was made by the board of UBQ Israel. 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 and dramatically decrease carbon emissions. Quantis, an international leader of environmental impact assessments, has deemed UBQ the most climate-positive thermoplastic on the planet.

Thaman served for more than 11 years as CEO of Owens Corning, a global leader in insulation, roofing, and fiberglass composite materials. He grew Owens Corning into a company with $7 billion in annual revenues and 20,000 employees in 33 countries before stepping down last year. He will continue as Executive Chair until April, when he will conclude his 28-year career with the company.

UBQ takes unsorted trash, including 100 percent of organics, from banana peels to chicken bones – as well as used yogurt containers, mixed plastic bags, plastic straws, cardboard and paper – and converts it into a climate-positive thermoplastic material that can be used by industry to produce a large variety of everyday goods. UBQ has a fully operational commercial pilot plant in southern Israel which supplies UBQ™ to a range of plastic manufacturers worldwide.

The company produces its thermoplastic material by breaking down household waste into its most basic natural components. It uses patented technology to transform lignin, cellulose, sugar and fibers into a novel composite thermoplastic through an energy efficient process that does not use water or produce any harmful emission. Successfully used in injection molding, extrusion, compression molding and 3D printing, UBQ™ material has been tested and proven compatible with conventional polymers such as: Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene (PE), Polyvinyl chlorine (PVC), Polystyrene (PS) and Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). UBQ™ is ideal for a range of markets such as consumer goods, building products, logistics and material handling, decking, flooring and transportation/automotive. The material has already been used in applications that include shopping carts, hangers, pipes, panels, pallets, bricks, trash cans, trays and automobile parts.

“I’m thrilled to open a new professional chapter as UBQ’s chief executive,” Thaman said. “This is truly a rare opportunity to build a business and advance a new industry.  The objectives of UBQ are consistent with my belief that industry and innovation must play a leading role in solving the waste and global warming issues that we confront.”

UBQ was founded in 2012 by serial entrepreneur Yehuda Pearl and Jack (Tato) Bigio, a prominent figure in the renewable energies and industrial sector in Israel. Bigio, who served as CEO of the company since its inception, will continue as CEO of UBQ Israel. He will oversee the company’s technology development, expand UBQ’s business in the region, and support the company’s global expansion. The founding team was joined by UBQ’s Executive Chairman Albert Douer in 2013. Douer is the owner and CEO of the Darnel Group, a private international conglomerate of plastic manufacturing companies.

Thaman’s arrival builds on UBQ’s recent milestones as it begins to commercialize its technology. In recent months the company announced partnerships with Daimler AG to incorporate UBQ™ in the production of automobile parts and with Arcos Dorados Holdings, the largest franchisee of McDonald’s in the world, to use UBQ™ to produce in-restaurant items in McDonald’s across Latin America and the Caribbean. In August, the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority unveiled the first US pilot distributing recycling bins made with the UBQ material to local residents. UBQ continues to partner with other leading companies and international conglomerates who are adding its climate positive material in their product lines.

“Mike’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 addition to Douer, Pearl, and Bigio, the board includes Scott Tobin, general partner at the global technology investment firm Battery Ventures; Benny Bacharach, senior economist and managing partner at Olesh, a business and management consulting firm; and Rany Lev, founding legal counsel at UBQ.

“UBQ has been enhancing its technology over the last decade and we have achieved a level of performance that makes the timing right to accelerate our growth,” according to Executive Chairman, Douer.

Last week, UBQ was named to Fast Company’s prestigious list of The World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2020. In late 2019, the company was named a “Best For The World B Corp,” a top designation awarded by non-profit B Lab in recognition of positive impact on the environment, its workforce, local communities, suppliers, customers, and corporate governance.  Additional recognition the company has received include the Solar Impulse Foundation’s coveted “Efficient Solution” label for clean energy start-ups that demonstrate profitability, the Sustainability Innovation Award from the US Plastics Industry and the Bio-Market Insights Award in Europe.

The company is supported by an International Advisory Board that includes Roger Kornberg, Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry; Connie Hedegaard, Former EU Commissioner for Climate Action; and John Elkington, a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainability.

Thaman will be based in the US and build a global team, with an initial focus on North America where UBQ sees potential for significant and rapid expansion.

“The progress UBQ has made in developing the technology and refining the material system is most impressive,” commented Thaman. “We have a compelling value proposition and I am excited to lead the team and work toward our long-term success.”

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