Department of Energy to Invest $25 Million in Polymer Upcycling, Plastic Waste Reuse Research

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced plans to invest $25 million in fundamental science to lay the groundwork for technology that finds reuses for plastic waste, makes strides toward addressing the global plastic waste crisis, and reduces the climate impacts of plastic production.

DOE’s research investment will focus on polymer upcycling, the process of efficiently deconstructing and rebuilding polymers, which are the essential building blocks of plastics. Polymer upcycling has the potential to turn waste plastic into chemicals, fuels, and other products of value and greatly reduce the high energy costs associated with plastic production.

“Polymer upcycling holds the promise of boosting reuse of plastic waste and lowering the energy costs of plastic production,” said Dr. Steve Binkley, Acting Director of DOE’s Office of Science. “This research will provide insights into chemical and materials phenomena that will be critical to accelerating developments in this emerging area.”

Less than ten percent of waste plastics are currently recycled in the United States, and globally plastic waste is a growing environmental threat, especially to rivers and oceans that absorb many millions of tons of such waste each year. Fundamental breakthroughs in chemistry and materials science are needed to increase the reuse of discarded plastics and thereby reduce the accumulation of plastic waste in the environment.

Read more from the U.S. Department of Energy.