11 November 2020

U.S. Department of Energy Announces $27 Million in Plastics Recycling Research and Development

All new projects will help improve existing recycling processes that break plastics into chemical building blocks, which can then be used to make new products

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced over $27 million in funding for 12 projects that will support the development of advanced plastics 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.

“The Trump Administration is committed to advancing innovation to position the U.S. as a global leader in advanced plastics recycling and upcycling technologies,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “These new projects support that objective through the development of energy-efficient recycling technologies that will strengthen U.S. competitiveness and help reduce plastic waste in our environment for generations to come.”

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 and Advanced Manufacturing Office. 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 areas, including:

Highly Recyclable or Biodegradable Plastics: Develop new plastics that have improved performance attributes over a 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 which 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, IA)Trojan Horse Repeat Sequences for Triggered Chemical Recycling of Polyesters for Films and Bottles – DOE funding: $2,165,000
    – Partners include 3M, Archer Daniels Midland, and Diageo.
  • University of California, San Diego (La Jolla, CA)Production of high-performance biodegradable polyurethane products made from algae precursors – DOE Funding: $2,000,000
    – Partners include Algenesis, BASF, Pepsi, Reef, and University of California – Davis

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

  • University of California, San Diego (La Jolla, CA) - Degradable Biocomposite Thermoplastic Polyurethanes – DOE Funding: $2,088,114
    – Partners include BASF and University of Georgia.
  • The University of Akron (Akron, OH) – Highly Recyclable Thermosets for Lightweight Composites – DOE Funding: $2,049,242
    – Partners include Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 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, CA)Upcycling PET via the VolCat process – DOE Funding: $2,495,625
    – Partners include Husky, Miliken, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Niagra,
  • Oklahoma State University, Under Armor, and Unifi.
    Battelle Memorial Institute (Columbus, OH)Hybrid Approach to Repurpose PlasticsUsing Novel Engineered Processes (HARNESS) – DOE Funding: $1,999,778
    – Partners include Allonia and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
  • Iowa State University (Ames, IA)Modular Catalytic Reactors for Single-Use Polyolefin Conversion to Lubricating Oils from Upcycled Plastics (LOUPs) – DOE Funding: $2,500,000
    Partners include Argonne National Laboratory, ChemStation, Chevron Phillips, and Texas A&M.
  • Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH) – Hybrid Chemical-Mechanical Separation & Upcycling of Mixed Plastic Waste – DOE Funding: $2,498,539
    – Partners include Braskem, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Procter & Gamble, Resource Material and Recycling, and Sandia National Laboratory.
  • LanzaTech, Inc. (Skokie, IL)Upscaling of Non-Recyclable Plastic Waste into CarbonSmart™ Monomers – DOE Funding: $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:

  • University of Delaware (Newark, DE)Circular Economy of Composites enabled by TUFF Technology – DOE Funding: $2,499,983
    Partners include Altair, Arkema, Axiom, Colorado State University, Composites Automation, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
  • 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: $2,499,997
    – Partners include BASF, MIT, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison (Madison, WI)Designing Recyclable Biomass Biomass-Based Polyesters – DOE Funding: $2,500,000
    Partners include Amcor, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pyran, Stora Enso, and the University of Oklahoma.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy, press release, 2020-10-15.

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