Plastics Recycling Update

Institute announces plastics research grant and issues RFP

Mixed plastics baled for recycling.

Federal funding has been announced for research looking into sorting scrap plastic and using enzymes to clean material, among other recycling-related efforts. | paul prescott/Shutterstock

Research focused on improving scrap plastics sortation received funding from the REMADE Institute. Meanwhile, the organization will provide up to $35 million for its next round of grants, with priority placed on plastics.

Based at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York, the REMADE (Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions) Institute is a public-private initiative that funds research into remanufacturing and recycling technologies.

Third funding round awards

Launched in early 2017 and supported by federal funds, the institute has now awarded funding in three rounds. The first round of funding was announced in July 2018, and the second round recipients were unveiled in May 2019.

The third round, announced Aug. 17, touches on sorting scrap plastic and using enzymes to clean material; designing equipment for recovery, reuse, remanufacturing and recycling; recovering metals from scrap electronics; boosting recycled fiber quality; and training the workforce in paper recycling.

The plastics-related project that was “selected for negotiations” for funding is led by Michigan State University and Sealed Air, according to the release.

Titled “CombiClean: Facilitating Contaminant Removal in Recycled Plastics,” the project’s goal is to develop an open source database, called CombiClean, with hyperspectral characterization data (combined FTIR, Raman and LIBS data) on virgin, contaminated and cleaned plastics. The data will be used to train machine-learning algorithms, which will be used to improve sorting.

Additionally, the research will look at using enzymes to clean scrap plastics, rather than the typical hot caustic wash systems used today.

$35M available for awards

In a separate Aug. 17 press release, the REMADE Institute announced it has issued its fourth request for proposals to invest up to $35 million in R&D projects focused on polymers, metals, fibers and e-scrap. The funding must be matched dollar-for-dollar by project participants.

For its fourth round of funding, REMADE has prioritized domestic recycling of plastics, according to the release.

Letters of intent and project abstracts are due at 5 p.m. Eastern time on Sept. 14, with full proposals due by 5 p.m. Eastern time on Oct. 19.

“With the challenges facing industry today, it is increasingly important to improve U.S. manufacturing competitiveness,” Nabil Nasr, REMADE’s CEO, stated in the release. “Our partnership of 100 industry, national laboratory, and academic innovators are working together to reduce the energy and environmental burden of domestic manufacturing while delivering value to industry, the economy, and the environment.”

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