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DOE Requests Input On Its Draft Plastics Innovation Challenge Roadmap
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By   Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released its Plastics Innovation Challenge Draft Roadmap (Draft Roadmap) alongside a Request for Information (RFI) seeking stakeholder input on the draft document. The Plastics Innovation Challenge is a DOE program focused on accelerating innovations in energy-efficient plastic recycling technologies. The aim of the Plastics Innovation Challenge is to make domestic processing of plastic waste energy efficient and economically viable, develop new and improved plastic materials lacking the same end-of-life concerns as incumbent materials, and to reduce plastic waste accumulation. Based on these aims, the Plastics Innovation Challenge has outlined four strategic goals within its scope:

  • Deconstruction: Develop biological and chemical methods for deconstructing plastic wastes into useful chemicals;
     
  • Upcycling: Develop technologies to upcycle waste chemical streams into higher value products;
     
  • Recycle by Design: Design new, renewable plastics and bioplastics that are easily upcycled and can be manufactured domestically at scale; and
     
  • Scale and Deployment: Support an energy and material-efficient domestic plastics supply chain.

The Draft Roadmap, therefore, identifies key research needs and opportunities for DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D). It also identifies challenges and opportunities across thermal, chemical, biological, and physical recycling and upcycling methods, as well as material design strategies for recyclability. According to DOE, the Draft Roadmap additionally:

  • Provides an overview of the plastic waste problem;
     
  • Identifies the initiative’s 2030 vision, mission, strategic goals, and objectives;
     
  • Details challenges and opportunities identified by previous DOE activities;
     
  • Lays out key research directions;
     
  • Delivers an outline of current DOE activities, capabilities and coordination; and
     
  • Describes targets for each research area.

The Draft Roadmap aims to guide DOE efforts to meet the Plastics Innovation Challenge goals. The purpose of DOE’s RFI on the Draft Roadmap, therefore, is to solicit feedback from stakeholders to ensure the road toward the Plastics Innovation Challenge 2030 goals is clear and well positioned. Responses to the RFI are due to DOE by March 1, 2021.