NREL Develops Systematic Framework to Compare Plastics Recycling Methods
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced on January 23, 2023, that researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examined the benefits and trade-offs of current and emerging technologies for recycling certain types of plastics to determine the optimal options. According to BETO, the researchers provided a comparison of various closed-loop recycling technologies, which allow for the reuse of plastic through mechanical and chemical reprocessing, eliminating the need for fossil-fuel-derived virgin materials. They considered technical metrics, such as the quality and retention of recycled plastics, as well as environmental metrics, including energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. BETO and the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office provided funding for the research as part of the BOTTLE™ Consortium (Bio-Optimized Technologies to keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment). The Consortium is a collaborative effort among industry, academia, national labs, and the government to change the way we recycle. More information is available in the January 2023 article “Technical, Economic, and Environmental Comparison of Closed-Loop Recycling Technologies for Common Plastics,” published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.