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US Energy Dept Invests $13.4 Million in Plastics Recycling and Sustainability Projects
January 12, 2022

The US Department of Energy (DOE) said today it will invest $13.4 million in funding seven research and development (R&D) projects for next-generation plastics technologies to reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions of single-use plastics. The seven projects led by industry and universities will convert plastic films into more valuable materials and design new plastics that are more recyclable and biodegradable.

The investment is also in line with US efforts to build a clean energy economy moving towards its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

"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," said US Energy Secretary, Jennifer M. Granholm.

Projects selected are as follows:

Braskem (Pittsburgh, PA) will develop infinitely recyclable single-polymer chemistry bio-based multilayer films. (Award Amount: $2,000,000)

Iowa State University of Science and Technology (Ames, IA) will develop a closed-loop upcycling of single-use plastic films to biodegradable polymers. (Award Amount: $2,500,000)

Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI) will create a redesign for inherently recyclable plastics. (Award Amount: $1,705,811)

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (Greensboro, NC) will formulate the catalytic deconstruction of plasma-treated single-use plastics to value-added chemicals and novel materials. (Award Amount: $2,499,994)

TDA Research Inc. (Wheat Ridge, CO) will develop infinitely recyclable and biodegradable films for improved food packaging. (Award Amount: $1,609,056)

University of Massachusetts Lowell (Lowell, MA) will integrate delamination and carbonization processes for the upcycling of single-use, multi-layer plastic films. (Award Amount: $1,600,276)

West Virginia University Research Corporation (Morgantown, WV) will develop process intensified modular upcycling of plastic films to monomers by microwave catalysis. (Award Amount: $1,500,001)This funding opportunity builds on DOE investments, including the Bio-Optimized Technologies to keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment (BOTTLE) Consortium and the Reducing Embodied energy And Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Advanced Manufacturing Office and Bioenergy Technologies Office will oversee the investments, while its  Office of Science, Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management and ARPA-e  will also play key roles in supporting plastic research and development efforts.

The DOE's investments follow come as major resin producers continue to advance sustainability initiatives of their own.

Earlier this week, Chevron Phillips Chemical began the first commercial sales and deliveries of its Marlex Anew Circular Polyethylene.

The company's announcement follows its work with Chevron to process pyrolysis oil at Chevron's Pascagoula Refinery in a certified commercial-scale trial, which enabled CP Chem to source feedstock derived from plastics waste to produce the Circular Polyethylene. The amount of pyrolysis oil used in the trial run equates to converting approximately 2 million one-gallon milk jugs into feedstock.

Also this week, global chemical recycling company Plastic Energy and TotalEnergies announced an agreement to promote the development of advanced plastic recycling. Under the agreement, Plastic Energy plans to build a second advanced recycling plant in Sevilla, Spain, in addition to their existing operational plant, which will transform end-of-life plastic waste into a recycled feedstock called TACOIL using Plastic Energy's patented recycling technology. TotalEnergies will convert the raw material into virgin-quality polymers, which can be used for food-grade packaging.

The plant will process and convert 33,000 mt/yr of post-consumer end-of-life plastic, which would otherwise be destined for landfill or incineration. The plant is expected to become operational in early 2025.

By Brian Balboa for The Plastics Exchange.

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