Mean, Green, Recycling Machines: Undergraduate Scholarship Competition

Award Info:

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science Education (ORISE) is hosting a research-based challenge for undergraduate students! The challenge is for students to develop a website on plastic recycling. Students will research their schools’ current process for recycling plastic and then design/create a strategy to make the process more efficient. Thorough submissions will include further research on the plastic recycling process, benefits of current recycling methods, and process improvement ideas. Your website could win you a $5,000 scholarship! Second place receives a $3,000 scholarship, and third place is a $1,000 scholarship. The deadline for this competition is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. Winners will be announced in late-December.


The Department of Energy (DOE) is investing $25 million to focus on polymer upcycling and plastic waste reuse. This research aims to develop technologies that will increase the use of plastic waste and lower the expense associated with plastic production. Polymer upcycling has the potential to convert plastic waste into chemical, fuels, and other valuable products. Recycling has evolved from being an in-home process out of necessity, to being a process valued by businesses, schools, and the government.

The Problem:
According to National Geographic, the world generates at least 3.5 million tons of plastic and other solid waste a day. This is 10 times the amount the world produced a century ago. Awareness needs to be brought to recycling and upcycling efforts. DOE is doing its part to mitigate the lasting effects of plastic waste buildup through new research and development into upcycling polymers.

Your task:
Create a website to inform the public on recycling and how it is done at your school. Submissions should include recent scientific research on recycling, as well as possible enhancements to recycling programs at your school. You must provide supporting evidence using citations in your website.