The U.S. Department of Energy is launching a research partnership to boost plastic recycling and address plastic waste problems by tapping into the agency's technical capabilities, including its national research labs.
A Nov. 21 DOE announcement said the agency will release details in coming weeks on its Plastics Innovation Challenge, including funding, requests for information and workshops with stakeholders to discuss technology barriers in plastics recycling.
"While plastics add much value to our society, we must find better solutions in dealing with plastic waste, including ways to recapture the critical materials contained in plastics rather than putting them in rivers, oceans and landfills," said Dan Brouillette, deputy secretary of energy.
The announcement said the partnership would work in five areas: collection, deconstruction or chemical recycling, upcycling waste streams into higher-value products, design for recyclability and commercialization to support U.S. companies developing new technologies around plastics recycling.
DOE said the program would use the department's capabilities in both fundamental and applied research, including its national research labs and work with universities and industry.
"We will harness the department's extensive resources and expertise to position the U.S. as a world leader in advanced plastic recycling technologies," Energy Secretary Rick Perry said. "We will also pursue the next generation of plastics manufacturing, which are recyclable by design, reducing waste plastic in our rivers, oceans and landfills."
In a statement, the American Chemistry Council's plastics division said it welcomed what it called the multidisciplinary approach in the DOE plan to "increase the circular use of plastics in American manufacturing."