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Lithium Batteries/US Environmental Protection Agency Request for Best Practices/Collection/Recycling/Labelling Information: SWANA and Three Other Organizations File Joint Comments | Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, LLC

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The Solid Waste Association of North America (“SWANA”) and three other organizations have filed joint comments responding to questions posed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) in the following document:

RFI Development of Best Practices for Collecting Batteries for Recycling and Voluntary Battery Labeling (“RFI”) Guidelines

See EPA-HQ-OLEM-2022-0340.

Other organizations joining the comments included:

  • International Battery Council
  • world electronics council
  • National Association of Waste and Recycling

(Collectively, “SWANA”)

Issues related to the use, collection and recycling of lithium batteries have gained prominence due to the current and expected significant increase in demand for electric vehicles. Experts predict there will be more than 18 million electric vehicles on US roads by 2030, representing about 7% of the nation’s passenger fleet. See Edison Electric Institute, EEI Celebrates One Million Electric Vehicles on US Roads, November 30, 2018.

The proliferation of electric vehicles has led to an increased demand for lithium-ion batteries. The US supply chain is therefore experiencing overwhelming demand for the lithium, cobalt and nickel used in the manufacture of these batteries. See Katy Brigham, US faces lithium-ion battery shortage as electric vehicle production ramps up (April 8, 2021). Therefore, there is significant interest in recycling these batteries whenever possible.

APE RFI notes that the federal agency is developing best practices for collecting batteries for recycling. In addition, it is implementing a program to promote battery recycling through the use of voluntary labeling guidelines. This would include communication materials for battery producers and consumers.

As a result, the EPA issued the RFI request information on battery end-of-life management, including:

  • Battery Generation
  • Battery collection
  • Battery recycling
  • Battery reuse
  • Current labeling standards
  • How the different parties involved in the batteries are educated on their management

SWANA’s joint comments cite an introductory statement in the EPA RFI who says :

. . . batteries can start fires throughout the municipal waste management system, in transportation and at transfer stations, to material recycling facilities. . .

Concerns are being expressed that these risks will increase with the increasing amount of discarded lithium-ion batteries and their inappropriate placement in residential curbside trash cans or recycling collection containers. Significant examples of fires at recycling facilities and other facilities are cited and the difficulty of obtaining insurance or increased premiums due to these issues is noted.

Therefore, the joint comments ask the EPA to:

. . . move quickly to develop battery labeling guidelines and communication materials for battery producers, state and local governments, and others.

Issues addressed by ISRI’s joint comments include:

  • How do state, tribal, and local governments, including U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, handle battery collection and recycling?
  • What barriers do state, tribal, and local governments, including U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, face in collecting and recycling batteries?
  • Do state, tribal, and local governments, including U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, find common issues when collecting batteries? What existing best practices have been developed to address these common issues? How have these best practices increased safe battery recycling?
  • What problems have battery collection facilities encountered when handling and processing batteries?
  • Explain how local governments, retailers, and others collect used batteries at drop-off, store them, and then ship them somewhere.
  • What are the battery recycling concerns and challenges that each entity in the battery recycling chain faces?
  • Communication material for the public
  • How to manage the batteries?
  • What should be the objectives of developing voluntary guidelines for the labeling of batteries?
  • What information should be included on the label to achieve these goals?
  • Scope of Good Battery Collection Practices

A copy of SWANA’s joint comments can be downloaded here.