US invests $14.5m to combat plastic waste and pollution

The funding will be used for research and development to cut waste and reduce the energy used to produce and recycle single-use plastics such as plastic bags, wraps and films

The Big Zero report

An investment of up to $14.5 million (£10.2m) has been announced to advance technologies for plastic recycling, reducing plastic waste and cutting the carbon footprint of plastic production in the US.

The funding will be used for research and development to cut waste and reduce the energy used to produce and recycle single-use plastics such as plastic bags, wraps and films.

Single-use plastics are the largest subset of plastics found in landfills and among the most challenging to recycle.

The production of plastics accounts for more than 3% of total US energy consumption and uses roughly the same amount of oil around the world as the aviation industry.

However, less than 10% of plastics are currently recycled, most of which are “downcycled” or repurposed into low value products, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE), which announced the funding.

DOE will support a range of projects to develop economically viable solutions for converting plastic films into more valuable materials and design new plastics that are more recyclable and biodegradable.

Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said: “For years, single-use plastics have had a detrimental impact on the environment—clogging landfills and polluting our neighbourhoods, parks and beaches.

“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.”

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