By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
On May 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the availability of up to $14.5 million in investments for research and development (R&D) to reduce waste and energy use related to the recycling of single-use plastics. As the largest subset of plastics found in landfills, single-use plastics, including plastic bags, wraps, and films, are also among the most challenging to recycle. According to DOE, plastic production uses the same amount of oil around the world as the aviation industry. Only ten percent of plastics, however, are currently recycled, and most of those plastics are downcycled, or repurposed into low-value products. DOE Secretary of Energy, Jennifer M. Granholm, hopes that these funds supporting plastic recycling innovation will be a “triple win by cutting plastic waste we see in our everyday lives, reducing industrial energy use and resulting emissions, and creating clean manufacturing jobs for American workers.” This is an effort by DOE to decarbonize the plastics industry and increase investments in recycling processes. There are many obstacles to plastic film recycling, including collection, sorting, contamination, and lack of economically viable methods for recycling and upcycling. Therefore, DOE will support various projects to develop viable solutions for converting plastic films to more valuable materials and designing plastics that are more recyclable and biodegradable.
In addition to a concept paper and full application, the application process requires a description of how diversity, equity, and inclusion objectives will be incorporated into the project. Submission deadlines are as follows:
- Concept Paper – Deadline: June 28, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT);
- Full Application – Deadline: August 16, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT); and
- View Full Application Reviewer Comments – Between September 23, 2021, and September 28, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT).