New $14.5M funding for plastic waste reduction

Circular economy

United StatesThe US Department of Energy (DOE) will invest $14.5 million in research and development to reduce waste and energy required in recycling single-use plastics such as plastic bags, wraps, and films.

This money will help the DOE overcome the issues of plastic trash recycling and ensure the United States achieves net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Single-use plastics

Single-use plastics are the most common type of plastic discovered in landfills, and they’re also the most difficult to recycle. Plastic production consumes more than 3% of total energy consumption in the United States and uses nearly the same amount of oil globally as the aviation industry. Currently, less than 10% of plastics are recycled, with the majority being “downcycled,” or transformed into low-value products.

More recyclable plastic

DOE will finance a variety of projects to create commercially feasible ways for converting plastic films to more valuable materials and to design new plastics that are more recyclable and biodegradable through this funding opportunity. These solutions have the potential to raise US investments in recycling processes and jobs, minimize the amount of plastics that end up in the environment, and decarbonize the plastics sector.

Keeping plastic out of landfills

The DOE Bio-Optimized Technologies to Keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment (BOTTLE) Consortium and the Reducing EMbodied Energy And Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute are among the DOE’s investments. Members of the BOTTLE collaboration have already built an enzyme to better breakdown polyethylene terephthalate, one of the most commonly used plastic packaging materials, established a novel way to deconstruct single-use polyethylene for usage in new goods, and created a fresh new recyclable plastic.