Plastics and synthetic polymers are incredibly versatile materials that have become pervasive throughout the modern world and are made today overwhelmingly from fossil fuel derived intermediates. Given their low cost, ubiquity, and incredible durability, most synthetic polymers are able to persist in landfills or the natural world for centuries to millennia, and the leakage and accumulation of plastics in the environment is now broadly recognized as an immediate and growing global pollution crisis. Moreover, the recycling approaches in current, widespread use often create a disincentive for the reclamation of waste plastics, such that most recycling today is considered down-cycling from an economic perspective. Going forward, new solutions that employ innovative chemical and biological recycling strategies to enable circularity for today's plastics, alongside the transition to recyclable-by-design plastics of tomorrow, are desperately needed.
Accordingly, the goal of this GRC is to assemble and nucleate a multidisciplinary and international community of researchers to foster new collaborations and to accelerate the science and engineering of plastics recycling and upcycling. This meeting will cover topics including understanding the scope of the plastics problem and the issues from a carbon, energy, economic, and pollution perspective, the use of new chemical and biological catalysis to break down today's plastics and upcycle them, and the use of new and existing building blocks to produce plastics that are recyclable-by-design. Interaction, discussion, and teamwork between biologists, chemists, engineers, environmental scientists, material scientists, and sustainability analysts will be critical to generate new solutions, realize evidence-based policy, and ultimately stem the flow of plastics into the natural environment and the world's landfills, toward the common goal of establishing a more sustainable future for the planet.
The conference will consist of nine sessions, on the topics listed below. The conference chair is currently developing their preliminary program, which will include the names of the invited speakers and discussion leaders for each of these sessions. The preliminary program will be available by October 11, 2020. Please check back for updates.
- Keynote Session: From Plastics Pollution to Plastics as a Chemical Feedstock
- Catalytic and Thermal Depolymerization of Plastics
- Biological Depolymerization of Plastics
- Valorization of Today's Plastics Towards Upcycled Products
- Analysis and Modeling Towards the Circular Economy for Plastics
- New Chemical Building Blocks for Inherently Recyclable Polymers
- Vitrimer Chemistry for Inherently Recyclable Polymers
- Design of New Polymers and Processes from Cradle-to-Cradle
- Research Needs in Plastics Recycling and Upcycling