The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced an investment of up to $14.5 million for research and development to cut waste and reduce the energy used to recycle single-use plastics like plastic bags, wraps, and films. This funding directed toward plastics recycling technologies advances the DOE’s work to address the challenges of plastic waste recycling and support the Biden Administration’s efforts to build a clean energy economy and ensure the U.S. reaches net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“For years, single-use plastics have had a detrimental impact on the environment—clogging landfills and polluting our neighborhoods, parks, and beaches,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Innovation in plastics recycling technology is a triple win by cutting plastic waste we see in our everyday lives, reducing industrial energy use and resulting emissions, and creating clean manufacturing jobs for American workers.”
Single-use plastics are the largest subset of plastics found in landfills and among the most challenging to recycle. Plastic production accounts for more than 3% of total U.S. energy consumption and uses roughly the same amount of oil around the world as the aviation industry. Yet, less than 10% of plastics are currently recycled, most of which are “downcycled,” or repurposed into low-value products.