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BOTTLE: Bio-Optimized Technologies to keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment


By Bob Baldwin, Principal Scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

We are pleased to announce a new public/private partnership focused on developing solutions to the problems associated with plastics in the environment. Of the nearly five billion metric tons of plastics that have been discarded across the globe in past decades, only 600 million metric tons have been recycled, leading to the environmental catastrophe we face today. There is a critical need for R&D investments on new technologies to mitigate this problem and to protect the planet from further environmental devastation associated with waste plastics.

Supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is leading the formation of a plastics upcycling consortium (BOTTLE) composed of industry, universities, government research laboratories, and other government agencies.

The vision for BOTTLE is to deliver technologies that will incentivise reclamation of waste plastics – including textiles – to enable a circular plastics economy. The mission of the BOTTLE Consortium is:

  • to develop robust processes to deconstruct and upcycle existing waste plastics, and
  • to develop new processes and polymeric materials that are recyclable-by-design.

The goals of BOTTLE are to: i) develop highly selective chemical and biological processes to deconstruct and upcycle today’s large-volume plastics; ii) to design chemistries and processes for recycling of tomorrow’s plastics that are recyclable-by-design, and; iii) to work with industry to catalyse a new upcycling paradigm for plastics.

To achieve these goals, the BOTTLE Consortium will leverage previous and ongoing DOE investments in process development and integration, biological and chemical catalysis, and analysis-driven R&D and will engage with industry and industry groups to carry out impactful research in three areas:

  • Deconstruction of waste plastics
  • Upcycling of waste plastics to new high-value materials
  • New polymeric materials that are recyclable-by-design

The BOTTLE Consortium will leverage substantial on-going DOE investments to conduct applied R&D for conversion of waste polymers to valuable products through hybrid catalytic and biological processes, and for design of new bio-based polymers that are recyclable by design. BOTTLE will conduct analysis-guided R&D using robust analytical tools to focus projects on impactful outcomes.

BOTTLE will provide Consortium members with unparalleled access to world-class scientists, facilities, and technology development focused on providing solutions to their problems.

There are many advantages to joining as a Foundational Consortium member including:

  • membership on key Governance and Advisory committees;
  • ability to advise the technical direction of the Consortium on key matters including governance and management structure, technical scope, and focus area priorities;
  • intellectual property rights, with an option to exclusive licenses for subject inventions;
  • showcase to your stakeholders your organisation’s commitment to sustainability issues;
  • access world-class resources and expertise and leverage substantial financial support from DOE to solve your waste polymer problems.

BOTTLE will leverage significant U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) investments in foundational scientific research and development to advance industrially relevant solutions for the plastic waste problem. The impact of industry investments in BOTTLE are magnified by significant DOE funding for foundational work in the areas of plastic depolymerisation, upcycling and material redesign. The BOTTLE team of academic members has invested significant efforts in making capabilities, contracts and innovations easily available to industry to promote public-private collaboration in solving a grand challenge which impacts the entire planet.

This story was first published in the Bio Market Insights’ #17 Quarterly edition.


For more information:

The Consortium is poised to immediately engage with partners to explore the needs, opportunities, and challenges for research, development, and deployment in chemical recycling technologies. Please feel free to reach out to us for more details:

Bob Baldwin, Principal Scientist,, 303-384-6858

Ron Schoon, Senior Business Development Manager,, 303-275-4644

Gregg Beckham, Senior Research Fellow,, 303-384-7806

If you were interested in this bioeconomy story, you may also be interested in the ones below.

Read:  5 Minutes With…Jay Fitzgerald from U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office.

Read: European Commission launches ‘Circular Plastics Alliance’ to help create ‘well-functioning market’ for recycled plastics.

Read:European Commission urges industry to do more to boost recycled plastics market.

Read:The Blue Planet effect kick-starts focus on plastic use in UK but Brexit and funding challenges remain.

Read:New report reveals fashion industry puts equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles into the ocean every year.

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