DOE offers $25 million for plastics recycling R&D

By Erin Voegele | March 16, 2020

The U.S. Department of Energy on March 16 announced it will award up to $25 million to support plastics recycling research and development as part of the Plastics Innovation Challenge. A portion of the funding will support the development of novel biobased plastics.

The DOE launched the Plastics Innovation Challenge in late 2019. The challenge is a comprehensive program that aims to accelerate innovations in plastics recycling technologies.

As part of the initiative, the DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and Bioenergy Technologies Office issued a joint funding opportunity announcement (FOA) on March 16 titled “BOTTLE: Bio-Optimized Technologies to Keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment.” The FOA will support the development of new plastics that are capable of efficient recyclability and on improving recycling strategies that can break existing plastics into chemical building blocks that can be used to make higher-value products.

The DOE also said it is launching a new BOTTLE Consortium, which will be led by the agency’s national laboratories and focus on designing new plastics and recycling strategies in collaboration with industry and academia. The consortium currently consists of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The FOA is divided into three primary topic areas. The first focuses on highly recyclable or biodegradable plastics. This includes the development of novel biobased plastics that have improved performance attributes over a comparable incumbent plastic in a defined application and can be cost-effectively chemically recycled, and the development of novel biobased plastics that have improved performance attributes over a comparable incumbent plastic and can be shown to biodegrade completely in the environment or in compost facilities. The first topic area also focuses on the development of novel non-biobased plastics with the same attributes.

Topic area two focuses on novel methods for deconstructing and upcycling existing plastics, while topic area three focuses on BOTTLE Consortium collaborations to tackle challenges in plastic waste.

The DOE plans to make three to five awards each under the first two topic areas, with each award ranging from $1.5 million to $2.5 million. The agency is expected to make four to six awards under the third topic area, which each award ranging from $1.5 million to $2.5 million. A 20 percent cost share is required for all three topic areas.

Concept papers for the FOA are due April 22, with the full application deadline set for June 18. The DOE is expected to notify selected projects of their awards in early September, with award negotiations scheduled for the fall of 2020.

Additional information is available under DE-FOA 0002245 on the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Exchange website