By Lynn L. Bergeson
On January 11, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) announced that seven research and development (R&D) projects were selected to receive $13.4 million in funding for R&D projects to advance next generation plastic technologies to reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions of single-use plastics. The selected R&D projects, led by industry and universities, will focus on converting plastic films into more valuable materials and designing new plastics that are more recyclable and biodegradable. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm stated that “By advancing technologies that repurpose single-use plastics and make the materials biodegradable, we can hit a trifecta of reduced plastic waste, fewer emissions from the plastics industry, and an influx of clean manufacturing jobs for American workers.”
According to DOE’s EERE, less than ten percent of plastics are recycled currently. Those plastics that are recycled are typically “downcycled” or repurposed into low-value products. The selected projects will work to develop affordable solutions for “upcycling” plastics into more valuable materials and to design new plastics that are recyclable and biodegradable.