TUM Alumni Michael Heyde.

For more than twenty years Michael Heyde is committed to Closed-Cycle Economy. Working for Der Grüne Punkt, he developed so-called regranulates, regrind or rather flakes from used plastic packaging, which can be reused for packaging (Image: Norbert Völl/DSD).

Alumni in leadership
Recycling expert Michael Heyde
“Back Then It Really Was a Struggle”
17. Jun 2019
Reading time Min.
In the beginning, TUM Alumni Michael Heyde was less than enthusiastic about studying Mechanical Engineering. But his professors showed him which exciting research pathways the discipline offers. Today, he is an expert in the field of plastics recycling.
As a child and teenager Michael Heyde was passionate about history and literature. He barely had an interest in technology. Subsequently to finishing high school, he first went out so sea for two years and obtained seamen certification. “After this excursion into a completely different world, not just geographically, but also socially, I felt the need to dedicate my further education and career to something more tangible”, says Michael Heyde. “A vocation in humanities was not an option anymore – very much to my friends’ and acquaintances’ horror.”

In 1983 Michael Heyde enrolled in Mechanical Engineering at TUM. During his undergraduate studies he was far from being fully focused and enthusiastic. After more than three years of learning resistance and written high-school exams in German, English and French, he was barely able to get into the technical contents. “Back then it really was a struggle”, Michael Heyde says about his initial time at TUM. “In the beginning it was rather a matter of personal challenge than technical inclination.”

Areas of specialisation sparked his passion

But getting a taste for chemical thermodynamics with Professor Dr. Dieter Vortmeyer, lectures on chemical and biochemical reactors, and an internship in the then biggest municipal sewage treatment plant in Europe during his graduate studies finally sparked Michael Heyde’s interest. Systemic thinking, firmly anchored in Process Engineering, which Professor Dr. Eckhard Blaß emphasized particularly, stirred full enthusiasm and finally also true passion in Michael Heyde. “Even after thirty years I remember many details from Professor Blaß’ seminars”, Michael Heyde looks back on the vivid and innovative classes.

In the end it was Honorary Senator Professor Dr. Werner J. Bauer, his charismatic professor for Food Process Engineering, who brought him one step closer to substantiating his main research area. The former director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Food Technology and Packaging lured him there with an elective lecture on Bioprocess Engineering. From then on, Michael Heyde was driven by this visionary domain.

Expert for Closed-Cycle Economy

For ten years Michael Heyde remained at Fraunhofer Institute and did research on the possibilities and limitations of resource management and material cycles; first as a student assistant, then for his diploma thesis, and after his graduation in 1989 as a doctorate student and head of a working group. In 1998 he earned his doctorate in Biotechnology and Food Science from the Technical University in Berlin. “After years of holistic analysis I wanted to implement things myself – this is impossible in research centres”, Michael Heyde comments on his decision to move to Cologne and work for the provider of the most popular German recycling system, the company Der Grüne Punkt.

I want to advance plastic recycling in terms of technology and infrastructure. Especially in light of the dramatic developments in marine pollution.

Dr. Michael Heyde

Already in his first position as head of the technology department, Michael Heyde managed to set the pace in the public discussion on the environmentally best solution for packaging waste. At the same time, he was primarily responsible for transforming the subsidiary Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kreislaufwirtschaft und Rohstoffe into an internationally operating secondary raw materials company. In just over three years, he turned another subsidiary into a profitable business.

Since 2018 he is running the recycling technologies department at a globally operating producer of plastic packaging. “I want to advance plastic recycling in terms of technology and infrastructure. Especially in light of the dramatic developments in marine pollution”, Michael Heyde says about his meanwhile global responsibility.

Trailblazers at TUM

The initially unloved degree programme in Mechanical Engineering eventually lead Michael Heyde to the subject areas of recycling and closed-cycle economy. Topics, which he is now passionately dealing with for thirty years. His professors at TUM have been decisive in paving this way by showing him the exciting research pathways the discipline offers.

“If you just look closely enough, many subjects are much more interesting than one initially thinks”, Michael Heyde says with regard to this experience, which he wants to share with the young generation, as well. “Don’t let the pressure to pick a certain direction at the beginning of your training or studies get to yourself. How you do what you do is much more important than what you do: mainstream topics as mandatory tasks or unusual ones with a passion – this decision can be based on gut feeling every now and then when you are young.”

Portrait picture of TUM Alumni Michael Heyde.

Michael Heyde (Image: Privat).

Dr. Michael Heyde

Degree Mechanical Engineering 1989


After having studied Mechanical Engineering at TUM (1983-1989), Michael Heyde started his career as a research assistant at the Fraunhofer Institute for Food Technology and Packaging (1991-1994). There he quickly became Head of the Systems Analysis Department and developed innovative methods for making product life cycle assessments and their application in industry projects (1995-1999). In 1998 he earned a doctorate degree from the Technical University Berlin in Food Science and Biotechnology.

Since then he is decisively shaping the closed-cycle economy of packaging in various roles in major German and Austrian companies; as Technical Manager at Der Grüne Punkt – Duales System Deutschland in Cologne (1999-2011), Technical Manager and Director at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Kreislaufwirtschaft und Rohstoffe (2000-2011), Director of Systec Plastics (2011-2015), and later at DSD Resource (2015-2016). From 2016 until 2018 he was the Head of Product and Process Development at Der Grüne Punkt. Since 2018 he is the Head of Recycling Technology at Austrian packaging producer Alpla’s German branch in Markdorf.