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A seagull amid garbage at a trash pit in San Francisco in April 2021. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Department of Energy announced Tuesday it will invest up to $14.5 million in research and development to help reduce single-use plastic waste and the energy needed to recycle such materials.

Why it matters: Single-use plastics, like plastic bags and cling film, make up the largest source of plastic in U.S. landfills and are some of the most difficult types of plastics to recycle, the department said.

What they're saying: “For years, single-use plastics have had a detrimental impact on the environment—clogging landfills and polluting our neighborhoods, parks, and beaches,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

  • "Innovation in plastics recycling technology is a triple win by cutting plastic waste we see in our everyday lives, reducing industrial energy use and resulting emissions, and creating clean manufacturing jobs for American workers," she added.

The big picture: Plastic production accounts for more than 3% of the country's total energy consumption annually, but less than 10% of plastics are recycled.

  • The department hopes to fund research that discovers ways to convert plastic films to more valuable materials and designs new plastics that are more recyclable and biodegradable.
  • Several cities have banned the use of types of single-use plastics, though the coronavirus pandemic also prevented some cities from fully implementing their bans last year.

Go deeper: A better way to recycle plastic

Go deeper

Vast majority of consumers concerned about plastic and packaging waste

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Consumers are still confused by recycling procedures, but they say that they want to make better purchasing decisions.

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest.

Why it matters: The atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, was causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood, as it slowly moved south overnight. It's triggered widespread power outages, flooding and mudslides.

In photos: Drought-ravaged California lashed by major storm

Workers try to divert water into drains as rain pours down on Oct. 24 in Marin City, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A major storm system was pummeling Northern California and parts of the Pacific Northwest with heavy rains overnight.

The big picture: "Atmospheric river" storms, associated with a record-strong "bomb cyclone" offshore from the Pacific Northwest, have brought flooding and mudslides to parts of California that were razed by recent wildfires and in severe drought. It's also caused widespread power outages in California and Washington state.

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