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DOE Invests $13.4 Million to Combat Plastic Waste, Reduce Emissions
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 01/13/2022

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $13.4 million in funding for next generation plastics technologies that reduce the energy consumption and carbon emissions of single-use plastics. The seven selected research and development (R&D) projects -- led by industry and universities -- will convert plastic films into more valuable materials and design new plastics that are more recyclable and biodegradable. This investment advances DOE's work to address the challenges of plastic waste recycling and supports the Biden Administration's efforts to build a clean energy economy and ensure the U.S. reaches net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

"Single-use plastics generate large amounts of carbon pollution when produced, are hard to recycle, and dirty our nation's beaches, parks and neighborhoods," said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. "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."

Single-use plastics, such as plastic bags, wraps, and films, are incredibly energy-intensive to produce. In fact, plastic production accounts for more than 3% of total U.S. energy consumption. Despite their high embodied energy use, many of these materials end up in our landfills or our environment. Yet, less than 10% of plastics are currently recycled, most of which are "downcycled," or repurposed into low-value products.

The seven selected projects will work to develop affordable solutions for "upcycling," or transforming plastic films into more valuable materials, and to design new plastics that are more recyclable and biodegradable -- innovating both the processes of single-use plastics recycling, and the single-use plastics themselves.

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

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