New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced $4.5 million is being awarded to the State University of New York’s University at Buffalo to create a new Center for Plastic Recycling Research and Innovation and support crucial work to reduce plastic waste.
This expanded academic partnership will improve plastics recycling by researching the development of secondary recyclable markets to ease the financial burdens on municipal recycling programs and streamline the recycling process, especially with certain types of lower-grade plastics.
The creation of the New York State Center for Plastic Recycling Research and Innovation expands upon an existing State-funded academic partnership with the University at Buffalo to conduct plastics recycling research focused on improving source separation quality and marketability. Supported by the State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) this additional $4.5 million is expected to help address a range of contemporary issues related to plastics recycling with the goal of furthering plastics recycling in New York and beyond.
A multidisciplinary team will conduct the Center’s work by integrating social sciences, economics, communication, engineering, plastics (polymers) and materials science. The Center will engage university professors, senior scientists, and other researchers, recycling industry experts, and DEC staff and focus on several tasks:
- Mapping the reverse supply for plastics in New York State and deep dive into the structure of the collection, disposal, and recycling industries;
- Improving the efficiency of businesses involved in collecting and processing plastics in New York State;
- Plastics in natural environments, including microplastics;
- Plastics in New York State agriculture/food and medical industries;
- Further understanding contemporary attitudes toward current recycling behaviors; and
- Advanced high-speed plastic sorting by molecular contract infrared imaging; and
- Fund several academic- and community-based projects.
The funding for the Center comes from the EPF. Among the many environmental victories in the 2022-23 State Budget, Governor Hochul succeeded in enacting an increase in the EPF from $300 to $400 million, the highest-ever level of funding in the program’s history. The EPF supports climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, improves agricultural resources to promote sustainable agriculture, protects our water sources, advances conservation efforts, and provides recreational opportunities for New Yorkers.
This announcement builds upon the State’s comprehensive waste management efforts to address the impacts of New York’s solid waste on climate change and the current burden on municipalities by reducing the amount of materials sent to landfills and combustors and significantly increasing waste reduction, reuse, and recycling.
The most recent measures include newly adopted regulations to reduce electronic waste and the use of polystyrene foam. New York State also continues to engage in a range of partnerships with academic institutions to advance waste management efforts to benefit communities, the environment, and fight climate change, including close partnerships with State University of New York (SUNY) to help develop strategies to advance more sustainable material management practices. DEC has committed more than $20 million in funding for work to make New York more resilient to future market disruptions with UB, New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Stony Brook University, and the College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
Additional information about these efforts and DEC’s ongoing waste reduction education efforts can be found at DEC’s website.
Photo: University at Buffalo Center for Plastic Recycling Research and Innovation.