Mt. RecycleMore was a reminder to the UCI community of the importance of recycling. Now, a team of researchers in the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and UCI's Institute of Transportation Studies will conduct a two-year project, funded by the REMADE Institute, aimed at improving California's circular economy in which more materials are recycled and reused instead of being dumped in landfills. UCI

The REMADE Institute, a public/private partnership founded by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2017, has granted $1 million to an interdisciplinary team of researchers at UCI for a project to improve California’s economy and environment through better recycling practices.

With an additional $1 million in matching funds from the University of California, researchers in The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and UCI’s Institute of Transportation Studies will conduct a two-year investigation into the enhancement of a circular economy in the Golden State in which manufactured goods are not simply discarded but reused. The goal is to minimize landfill clutter and runaway greenhouse gas emissions.

“We need to build a better understanding of the flows of recyclable items to create a stable market for them, and we must become more knowledgeable about the energy implications of expanded recycling,” said principal investigator Jean-Daniel Saphores, UCI professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Saphores said his team’s approach to achieving these goals will center on developing a new computational model to track the flow of recycled metals, fibers, plastics and electronic waste. In addition, the tool will provide an analysis of energy and greenhouse gas emissions related to recycling and reuse of materials.

The ITS and Samueli School experts’ work will be aided by outputs from the California State Freight Forecasting Model. A product of the California Department of Transportation, the model helps to estimate flows of commodities by transportation modes into and out of California, and within the state’s borders, using publicly available sociodemographic and economic data.

“This method will help us see how waste streams from households and firms in our state move from here to destinations around the United States and the outside world, primarily through seaports and border crossings,” Saphores said.

The UCI researchers will be joined on this project by specialists from the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation and trucking logistics application developer