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Covestro Lecture Series - Gregg Beckham 2023

"Challenges and opportunities in plastics recycling and redesign"

Gregg Beckham wears safety glasses and a plaid shirt. He stands behind a countertop covered with laboratory instruments.


A free event, open to the public!

Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

5:30 to 7:00 pm

The Moss Arts Center

Anne & Ellen Fife Theater

Gregg T. Beckham is a Senior Research Fellow and group leader at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). He received his PhD in Chemical Engineering at MIT in 2007. Today, he leads and works with an interdisciplinary team of biologists, chemists, engineers, and material scientists at NREL in bioenergy and plastics recycling. He is the founding chair of both the Lignin and the Plastics Recycling and Upcycling Gordon Research Conferences, and he testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology in a hearing titled “Closing the Loop: Emerging Technologies in Plastics Recycling” and co-organized the United States National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Symposium on “Closing the Loop on the Plastics Dilemma”, both in 2019. In 2020, Gregg founded the DOE-funded BOTTLE Consortium, which focuses on plastics recycling, upcycling, and redesign.

Beckham’s lecture will take the audience through several different plastics recycling frontiers. In one of his areas of research, enzymes — which are a type of macromolecule produced by living organisms – are being used to break down plastics into smaller components that can be handled and recycled more easily. In another research area, he seeks to create plastics that are “recyclable by design,” meaning that their ability to be recycled is taken into account from step one of the molecular design process.


Two men stand in a laboratory wearing safety glasses, discussing the scientific equipment around them.

About the Covestro Lecture Series

The talk will be part of the prestigious Covestro Lecture Series, sponsored by Covestro and produced by the Virginia Tech Macromolecules Innovation Institute (MII). This lecture series seeks to transcend boundaries and celebrate innovation in polymer science and engineering, which is a topic that touches nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Past lecturers have included architect James Timberlake, and medical researcher Anthony Atala. An important hallmark of this lecture series is an emphasis on bringing together multiple fields of study, to create new knowledge that would have been beyond the scope of a single academic discipline alone.

Covestro believes that innovation and entrepreneurship in polymer science and engineering and the development of more advanced materials will help lead to more sustainable products and services and to a better world. Covestro welcomes conversation on this with the various communities at Virginia Tech. "At Covestro, we make high tech materials for cars, buildings, electronics, sports, and more to make the world a brighter place."

Speaker Date Lecture Title
James Timberlake (KieranTimberlake) February 6, 2018 "How Do We See the Future (of Architecture)?"
Anthony Atala
(Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine)
February 25, 2020 "Regenerative Medicine — Current Concepts and Changing Trends"
Gregg Beckham (NREL) February 7, 2023 "Challenges and Opportunities in Plastics Recycling and Redesign"