By Lynn L. Bergeson
On March 16, 2020, DOE EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and Bioenergy Technologies Office used a joint funding opportunity announcement (FOA) of up to $25 million for plastics recycling R&D. As part of the Department’s Plastics Innovation Challenge, this FOA has been titled “BOTTLE: Bio-Optimized Technologies to Keep Thermoplastics Out of Landfills and the Environment.” The BOTTLE FOA will support the development of new plastics capable of efficient recyclability and improvement of recycling strategies that can break existing plastics into chemical building blocks that can be used in other products.
Also as part of the Plastics Innovation Challenge, DOE has launched a new BOTTLE Consortium, which will be led by three of DOE’s national laboratories. The Consortium will work with stakeholders in industry and academia to focus on BOTTLE’s core mission. The three national laboratories in the Consortium currently are the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
This BOTTLE FOA includes three topic areas:
- Highly recyclable or biodegradable plastics;
- Novel methods for deconstructing and upcycling existing plastics; and
- BOTTLE Consortium collaborations to tackle challenges in plastic waste.
Concept papers for the BOTTLE FOA are due on April 22, 2020, and full applications are due on June 18, 2020. Information on how to submit concept papers and applications can be found here.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
On February 19, 2020, the University of Oulu, Finland, announced that scientists from its Research Unit of Sustainable Chemistry have developed a new synthetic bioplastic that provides protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. In addition to its UV-light blocking capacity, the transparent bioplastic made from a biomass-based copolymer with bisfuran structure, the new bioplastic also has airtightness capabilities three to four times higher than polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic. The raw materials used in the production of this entirely biomass-based plastic are hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and furfural, which are biorefinery products derived from cellulose and hemicellulose. University of Oulu researchers chemically linked the two chemicals to create copolymer parts with bisfuran and furan-like structures. The research results have been published, and a patent application for the bioplastic has been filed for the new method developed.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On December 10, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) published a notice of intent to issue a joint Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) with the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), titled “BOTTLE: Bio-Optimized Technologies to Keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment.” This FOA supports the Department’s Plastics Innovation Challenge, a comprehensive program to accelerate innovations in energy-efficient plastics recycling technologies by supporting high-impact research and development for plastics. The primary goal of the FOA is to develop new bio-based plastics that are capable of efficient recyclability and developing improved recycling strategies that can break down existing plastics into chemical building blocks that can be used to make higher value products.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
From December 11 through 12, 2019, DOE’s Office of Bioenergy Technologies Office will host a workshop titled “Plastics for a Circular Economy” in Denver, Colorado. The workshop will include discussions on technology solutions to address plastic waste and focus on the development of new recycling and degradation strategies. The objective of the workshop will be to identify early-stage applied research problems in the aforementioned area that need to be addressed both in the long- and near-term. Representatives from waste management facilities, circular economy experts, commercial plastic producers, and biobased plastic innovators will be some of the participants.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On July 22, 2019, the United Kingdom (U.K.) Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced an open consultation for the development of standards for biodegradable, compostable, and biobased plastics. The consultation welcomes views from any interested parties to identify gaps and provide expert advice on:
- The overall sustainability of biobased and biodegradable plastic products in comparison with other materials;
- Existing relevant plastic degradation standards and how they are promoted without adverse environmental effects; and
- The design and implementation of standards for biodegradable plastics to ensure they are fully biodegradable in a reasonable timeframe.
With a focus on obtaining robust evidence backed by scientific theory, direct practical experience, or analysis, rather than opinion, views from environmental scientists, bioscience or biotechnology practitioners, standards authorities, manufacturers, waste processors, consumers, producers, and certification authority experts are welcome. Consultation responses must be submitted by October 14, 2019. For further details, the call for evidence can be accessed here.
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