The Environmental Protection Agency has issued three requests for information regarding recycling issues, a first step towards distributing funds and carrying out mandates contained in the last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, commonly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The programs for which EPA is requesting information are primarily directed toward improving recycling of consumer waste:

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued three requests for information regarding recycling issues, a first step towards distributing funds and carrying out mandates contained in the last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, commonly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The programs for which EPA is requesting information are primarily directed toward improving recycling of consumer waste:

Program TopicFundingInformation requested
(1) Develop best practices for collecting batteries for recycling in ways that are (i) technically and economically feasible for states and municipalities, (ii)environmentally sound and safe for waste management workers, and (iii) optimize the value and use of material derived from recycling of batteries. IIJA Sec. 70401(b).      





(2) Establish a program to promote battery recycling through the development of voluntary labeling guidelines for batteries and other forms of communication materials for battery producers and consumers about the reuse and recycling of critical materials from batteries. IIJA Sec. 70401(c).  
$10 million to EPA to develop battery collection best practices                          




$15 million to EPA to develop voluntary labeling program

EPA has identified key information categories on which stakeholder insights would be most helpful:
– Scope and prioritization of the battery collection best practices;
– Understanding the battery collection and recycling system;
– Information on labeling guidelines for batteries regarding reuse and recycling; and
– Information on battery reuse and recycling communication materials directed towards battery producers and consumers.    

Within each category, EPA lists a broad range of specific questions about the current recycling practices, including, for example:
– What battery types/chemistries are collected?        
– When do original equipment manufacturers take back or retain ownership of batteries at end-of-life?
– What should be the goals of developing voluntary labeling guidelines for batteries?  
EPA’s Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling (SWIFR) program, which supports post-consumer materials management and recycling efforts. See IIJA Division J.$275 million in grants to qualifying entities in increments of $55 million per year from fiscal years 2022-2026EPA is seeking comment on how to distribute funds under SWIFR and on current waste management systems more broadly. In particular, EPA seeks input, on the challenges facing communities with regard to post-consumer materials management, eligible uses for SWIFR funds, specific recommendations to improve post-consumer materials management.
(1) Establish grant program to fund improvements in residential and community recycling programs, including those that tackle waste prevention, through public education and outreach. IIJA Sec. 70402(b).

(2) EPA must also develop a Model Recycling Program Toolkit, intended for state, local, and tribal governments to use in carrying out their recycling programs. IIJA Sec. 70402(b)(7).
$15 million per year for five years    EPA requests comment on specific topics, including: Standardized Terminology; Residential Recycling; Consumer Education Materials; Measuring Effective Communication; and Current Stakeholder Education and Outreach Programs.

The current recycling rate in the United States—about 32 percent—is well below what it could be.  EPA has set a target of 50% by the end of the decade, and last year published the agency’s first ever national recycling strategy.  These requests for information focus on some of the most commonly cited reasons for the low rate, including consumer attitudes toward recycling and poor infrastructure in many parts of the country.

The RFIs should be of interest to a broad set of stakeholders.  EPA’s desire to better understand battery recycling practices is of particular note, given the prevalence of batteries in modern consumer products, and the importance of energy storage solutions to the Biden Administration’s climate goals.  The guidelines developed by EPA could ultimately become the basis for either federal or state mandatory requirements.  Manufacturer take-back programs are also specifically mentioned, suggesting that EPA may eventually consider extended producer responsibility for these products, a trend that is prevalent in a number of states. Written comments and information responding to these requests must be received on or before July 25, 2022.  EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR) will be hosting virtual meetings across the country this year.

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Photo of John Mizerak John Mizerak

John Mizerak is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office. He focuses on environmental matters as well as civil and administrative litigation, and has advised on issues under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, CERCLA, and other environmental and energy regimes.

Laura Martin

Laura Martin is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office. She is a member of the firm’s Patent Litigation and Environmental and Energy Practice Groups, advising clients on a broad range of regulatory and compliance issues, while also representing clients in Hatch-Waxman…

Laura Martin is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office. She is a member of the firm’s Patent Litigation and Environmental and Energy Practice Groups, advising clients on a broad range of regulatory and compliance issues, while also representing clients in Hatch-Waxman litigations. In addition, Laura maintains an active pro bono practice.

Photo of Thomas Brugato Thomas Brugato

Thomas Brugato is special counsel in the firm’s Washington, DC office. His practice focuses on environmental matters, as well as civil and administrative litigation. He has experience advising clients on a wide variety of environmental issues, including under the Clean Air Act, Clean…

Thomas Brugato is special counsel in the firm’s Washington, DC office. His practice focuses on environmental matters, as well as civil and administrative litigation. He has experience advising clients on a wide variety of environmental issues, including under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, RCRA, CERCLA, EPCRA, TSCA, FIFRA, the Endangered Species Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Mr. Brugato has extensive experience with EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard program. He also has particular expertise in advising companies on environmental-related issues arising in the context of product recalls (such as compliance with PHMSA’s hazardous materials transportation regulations), including recalls under NHTSA or CPSC jurisdiction. Finally, Mr. Brugato has significant experience advising clients on Indian law related issues, particularly relating to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and tribal sovereign immunity.