US Department of Energy launches $4 million E-SCRAP prize competition

Aluminum and ferrous materials scrap ready for recycling. Stock image.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has launched the Electronics Scrap Recycling Advancement Prize (E-SCRAP), which will award up to $4 million to competitors to substantially increase the production and use of critical materials recovered from electronic scrap—or e-scrap.

E-scrap—which includes mobile phones, home appliances, medical or office equipment, and anything else powered by electricity—represents the fastest growing waste stream globally, with e-scrap generation expected to double 2014 levels by 2030, according to the DOE.

Only 17.4% of e-scrap was collected and recycled globally in 2019, discarding 83% of e-waste and $57 billion in raw material value, the DOE said, adding that e-scrap recovery faces numerous roadblocks, including a fragmented recycling value chain, a complex and dynamic feedstock, and a rapidly evolving end-use market.

“This prize addresses the urgent need to reduce the amount of critical mineral waste that goes unrecycled in the technologies we use every day,” said Jeff Marootian, principal deputy assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy said in a news release.

“We’re excited to see how ideas and solutions spurred by the competition can transform this huge environmental loss into new opportunities to recover and recycle critical materials from devices that are discarded after use,” Marootian said.

Wednesday’s announcement marks the opening of the first of three phases in E-SCRAP. The cash prizes and assistance awarded in Phases 1 and 2 are intended to support teams as they advance in the competition.

During phase 1: Incubate –  competitors will propose solutions that have the potential to substantially increase the amount of recovered critical materials from electronic waste and used in US manufacturing.

In phase 2: Prototype – competitors will prototype their innovation and begin collecting and/or generating data that can be used to optimize technoeconomic strategy and life cycle impacts between partners along the recycling value chain.

In the final phase 3: Demonstrate – competitors will begin implementing their innovations and propose their plans to scale their solution. 

Applications for phase one of this prize are due on September 4, 2024. The DOE anticipates selecting up to 10 winning projects in the first phase, with each award consisting of a $50,000 in cash and up to $30,000 in national laboratory analysis support.

Information webinars for potential applicants will be held on March 27 and on June 18.

More information is here.