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Department of Energy Launches Plastics Innovation Challenge

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced the launch of the Plastics Innovation Challenge, a comprehensive U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program to accelerate innovations in energy-efficient plastics recycling technologies. Plastics are used in thousands of products essential to modern life, but plastic waste is also a growing global challenge.

“Solving this growing challenge of plastic waste facing our world today, as well tomorrow, will require innovative, groundbreaking technologies,” said Secretary Perry. “Through the Plastics Innovation Challenge, we will harness the Department's extensive resources and expertise to position the U.S. as a world leader in advanced plastic recycling technologies. We will also pursue the next-generation of plastics manufacturing, which are recyclable by design, reducing waste plastic in our rivers, oceans, and landfills.”

The Innovation Challenge will draw on both fundamental and applied research capabilities within the National Laboratories, universities, and industry. Using a coordinated suite of funding opportunities, critical partnerships, and other programs, the Plastics Innovation Challenge sets the following goals for the United States to reach by 2030:

  1. Collection: Develop novel collection technologies to prevent plastics from entering the ocean.
  2. Deconstruction: Develop biological and chemical methods for deconstructing plastic waste, including from rivers and oceans, into useful chemical streams.
  3. Upcycling: Develop technologies to upcycle waste chemical streams into higher-value products, which reduces energy intensity and encourages further recycling.
  4. Design for recyclability: Develop new plastics that are recyclable-by-design and can be scaled for domestic manufacturability.
  5. Commercialization: Support a domestic plastics upcycling supply chain for U.S. companies to scale and deploy new technologies in domestic and global markets.

“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 U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “This challenge extends far beyond America’s borders and affects the entire world, but I’m confident the path forward will be an American solution.”

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is leading the Plastics Innovation Challenge in collaboration with the Office of Science and other DOE programs. Over the coming weeks, DOE will release requests for information and host workshops to engage with stakeholders about the current barriers to plastic recycling technologies and shape the work that will bring those technologies to market. DOE also plans to announce funding opportunities and strategic partnerships to spur innovative solutions to plastics recycling.


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