White Paper: Background Information on ARPA-E's REUSE Program

This document provides supplemental information for ARPA-E’s exploratory research program, “Recycle Underutilized Solids to Energy” (REUSE).  The goal is to provide additional technical information to prospective Applicants.  Further information is available in a blog interview and webinar at https://arpa-e.energy.gov/?q=news-item/trash-treasure-reuse-creates-feedstock-plastic-waste.

Award information, submission requirements, evaluation criteria, and other applicable information is provided in Funding Opportunity Announcements DE-FOA-0001953 and DE-FOA-0001954 (SBIR/STTR).  REUSE-specific requirements are provided in Topic K of those FOAs, and is available at https://arpa-e-foa.energy.gov/Default.aspx?Search=0001953&SearchType=#FoaIde8647d89-1cac-4b58-8622-1b04de8958c4.

Under the REUSE Topic, ARPA-E seeks to fund the development of technologies to convert high-energy materials currently going to landfills to a high-energy content liquid product capable of displacing energy imports used for fuel or chemical production.  The high-energy materials include plastics (#1-7 polymers, rubber, and composites) and paper.  As discussed below, we estimate 30-34 MM ton plastic, 2-6 MM ton rubber, 18 MM ton of paper, and up to 0.1 MM ton composites are potentially available annually for this purpose.  These numbers may be conservative based on changes in the plastic and paper export markets. 

ARPA-E anticipates deployment of multiple low-cost, simple, flexible, small-scale (100-500 ton per day) regional facilities using modular plants.  This scale is consistent with the sources for high-energy materials, which include ~300 Material Recovery Facilities and industrial waste sources.  The assumption is that such facilities can be more economical than the paradigm of large-scale facilities making purity products, due to cost for transporting and aggregating waste and the high operating costs (OPEX) and capital cost (CAPEX) for product purification.  This document gives a brief technical review for multiple potential process technologies.  The review is not intended to be comprehensive or limiting, only to provide an introduction to potential Applicants.