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US DOE announces US$27m in plastic recycling R&D project awards

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced over US$27 million in funding for 12 projects that will support the development of advanced plastic recycling technologies and new plastics that are recyclable-by-design.
"The Trump Administration is committed to advancing innovation to position the United States as a global leader in advanced plastics recycling and upcycling technologies,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes.

US dollars

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced over US$27 million in funding for 12 projects that will support the development of advanced plastic recycling technologies and new plastics that are recyclable-by-design.

As part of DOE’s Plastics Innovation Challenge, these projects will also help improve existing recycling processes that break plastics into chemical building blocks, which can then be used to make new products.

These new projects support that objective through the development of energy-efficient recycling technologies that will strengthen US competitiveness and help reduce plastic waste in our environment for generations to come, said Deputy Secretary Menezes.

Announced in March 2020, the BOTTLE: Bio-Optimized Technologies to Keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment funding opportunity is jointly funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO).

The projects are part of DOE’s Plastics Innovation Challenge, which draws on the research capabilities of DOE National Laboratories, universities, and industry to accelerate innovations in energy-efficient plastics recycling technologies.

The selected projects will address a variety of research and development (R&D) areas, including:

Highly Recyclable or Biodegradable Plastics: Develop new plastics that have improved performance attributes over comparable existing plastic and can be cost-effectively recycled or biodegrade completely in the environment or in compost facilities.

Novel Methods for Deconstructing and Upcycling Existing Plastics: Generate energy-efficient recycling technologies (mechanical, chemical, or biological) that are capable of breaking plastic streams into intermediates that can be upgraded into higher-value products.

BOTTLE Consortium Collaborations to Tackle Challenges in Plastic Waste: Create collaborations with the BOTTLE Laboratory Consortium to further the long-term goals of the Consortium and the Plastics Innovation Challenge.

The following projects were selected under Topic 1a): Novel Bio-Based Plastics: Designing Highly Recyclable or Biodegradable Bio-Based Plastics:

  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa (IA): Trojan Horse Repeat Sequences for Triggered Chemical Recycling of Polyesters for Films and Bottles – DOE funding: US$2 165 000. Partners include 3M, Archer Daniels Midland, and Diageo.
  • The University of California – San Diego, La Jolla, California (CA): Production of high-performance biodegradable polyurethane products made from algae precursors – DOE Funding: US$2 million. Partners include Algenesis, BASF, Pepsi, Reef, and the University of California – Davis.

The following projects were selected under Topic 1b): Novel Plastics: Designing Highly Recyclable or Biodegradable Plastics:

  • The University of California – San Diego, La Jolla, Califonia (CA): Degradable Biocomposite Thermoplastic Polyurethanes – DOE Funding: US$2 088 114. Partners include BASF and the University of Georgia.
  • The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio (OH): Highly Recyclable Thermosets for Lightweight Composites – DOE Funding: US$2 049 242. Partners include Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Raytheon Technologies Research Center.

The following projects were selected under Topic 2: Novel Methods for Deconstructing and Upcycling Existing Plastics:

  • IBM Almaden Research Center, San Jose, California (CA): Upcycling PET via the VolCat process – DOE Funding: US$2 495 625. Partners include Husky, Miliken, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Niagra, Oklahoma State University, Under Armor, and Unifi.
  • Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, Ohio (OH): Hybrid Approach to Repurpose Plastics Using Novel Engineered Processes (HARNESS) – DOE Funding: US$1 999 778. Partners include Allonia and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa (IA): Modular Catalytic Reactors for Single-Use Polyolefin Conversion to Lubricating Oils from Upcycled Plastics (LOUPs) – DOE Funding: US$2.5 million. Partners include Argonne National Laboratory, ChemStation, Chevron Phillips, and Texas A&M.
  • Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio (OH): Hybrid Chemical-Mechanical Separation & Upcycling of Mixed Plastic Waste – DOE Funding: US$2 498 539. Partners include Braskem, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Procter & Gamble, Resource Material and Recycling, and Sandia National Laboratory.
  • LanzaTech, Inc., Skokie, Illinois (IL): Upscaling of Non-Recyclable Plastic Waste into CarbonSmart™ Monomers – DOE Funding: US$1 890 001. Partners include InEnTec, Lululemon, and Waste Management.

The following projects were selected under Topic 3: BOTTLE Consortium Collaborations to Tackle Challenges in Plastic Waste:

  • The University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware (DE): Circular Economy of Composites enabled by TUFF Technology – DOE Funding: US$2 499 983. Partners include Altair, Arkema, Axiom, Colorado State University, Composites Automation, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
    The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis (MN): BOTTLE – Recyclable and Biodegradable Manufacturing and Processing of Plastics and Polymers based on Renewable Branched Caprolactones – DOE Funding: US$2 499 997. Partners include BASF, MIT, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin (WI): Designing Recyclable Biomass Biomass-Based Polyesters – DOE Funding: US$2.5 million. Partners include Amcor, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Pyran, Stora Enso, and the University of Oklahoma.

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