United States – The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $13.4 million to seven projects for the research and development of novel recycling processes and technologies that will reduce plastic waste and the energy consumption and carbon emissions of single-use plastics at all stages of their lifecycle.
Single-use plastics, such as plastic bags, wraps, and films, require a tremendous amount of energy to manufacture. In fact, plastic production accounts for more than 3% of total US energy consumption and consumes roughly the same amount of oil globally as the aviation industry. Nonetheless, despite their high embodied energy consumption, many of these materials have a linear supply chain that ends abruptly in our landfills or the environment. This investment in plastics recycling technologies will aid in breaking down this linear model by reintroducing plastics and their valuable building blocks into the economy.
These seven projects will work to develop low-cost solutions for “upcycling,” or converting plastic films into more valuable materials, as well as to design new plastics that are more recyclable and biodegradable – innovating both the processes of single-use plastic recycling and the single-use plastics themselves.
Projects for negotiation were chosen from the following categories:
- Innovative Methods for Recycling and Upcycling Films: When compared to similar materials in other form factors, plastic films present unique technical and economic challenges to recycling. Applications were sought to develop novel post-consumer film degradation, upcycling, and/or recycling pathways that are energy efficient, cost effective, and reduce lifecycle emissions.
- Multi-layer Film Redesign for Infinite Recyclability or Biodegradability: This topic sought to identify and develop new materials that are infinitely recyclable or biodegradable, as well as possessing all of the properties required to replace multi-layered films. This increases the reusability of multi-layered films, extending product life and keeping plastic films out of landfills and the environment.