REGULATORY MEMORANDUM

EPA Seeks Information on End-of-Life Management of Batteries and Current Labeling Standards and Requirements Regarding Their End-of-Life

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery (ORCR) published a request for information (RFI) on June 9, 2022, seeking information on the end-of-life management of batteries, including their generation, collection, recycling, and reuse, as well as the current labeling standards and requirements for batteries regarding their end-of-life. 87 Fed. Reg. 35202. According to the RFI, EPA is developing best practices with respect to the collection of batteries to be recycled, as well as establishing a program intended to promote battery recycling through the development of voluntary labeling guidelines for batteries and communication materials for battery producers and consumers as directed by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. Comments are due July 11, 2022. According to the RFI, EPA will hold feedback sessions providing an opportunity for stakeholders to provide oral comments. EPA has posted the dates and times for the feedback sessions on its website -- June 14, 2022, 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. (EDT), and June 15, 2022, 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. (EDT). EPA states that stakeholders can stay informed about the feedback sessions by subscribing online.

EPA states that the RFI seeks information on both single-use batteries, also known as primary batteries, and rechargeable batteries, also known as secondary batteries; all battery chemistries, including but not limited to: lithium based, nickel-metal hydride, and other battery chemistries; and all battery types, such as small consumer batteries, large format batteries (including electric vehicles and grid energy storage), and industrial batteries used in manufacturing, commercial businesses, and healthcare operations, to inform the scope of the battery collection best practices, 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. The RFI seeks input from all stakeholders involved in the battery lifecycle from its manufacture to its end-of-life management, including but not limited to the public, industry, researchers, academia, state, tribal, and local governments, other federal agencies, community groups, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and international organizations. In addition to stakeholders involved with small consumer batteries, EPA notes that it also is interested in obtaining input from stakeholders involved with large format batteries (including electric vehicles and grid energy storage), and industrial batteries used in manufacturing, commercial businesses, and healthcare operations.

EPA states that it has already endeavored to learn about the proper end-of-life management of batteries from its previous work to increase the recycling of batteries or electronics. To build on this information and better inform the development of best practices with respect to the collection of batteries to be recycled and establish a program to promote battery recycling through the development of voluntary labeling guidelines for batteries and communication materials under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA identified several key information categories on which stakeholder insights would be most helpful:

  • Scope and prioritization of the battery collection best practices: The suggested questions provide an opportunity for all commenters to offer input on the battery types, such as small consumer batteries and large format batteries (including electric vehicles and grid energy storage) and battery chemistries, including but not limited to: lithium based, nickel-metal hydride, and other battery chemistries to inform the scope of the best practices. For lead-acid batteries, EPA states that it is aware that these batteries are manufactured with antimony, a critical mineral, and are currently recycled at a high rate, especially from vehicles; thus, lead-acid batteries may not need to be considered in the battery collection best practices. EPA is interested in information on other lead-acid batteries, however, such as small, sealed lead-acid batteries that may not be recycled at a high rate. The suggested questions also seek information to inform the prioritization of which battery types/chemistries the collection best practices should target that will help increase the recovery of critical minerals, while also ensuring safe used battery recycling. EPA is also interested in any existing studies or reports with background information on batteries and their collection and recycling, as well as batteries embedded in devices and standalone batteries.
     
  • Understanding the battery collection and recycling system: To help EPA better understand the end-of-life collection and management of batteries, EPA requests information on the key entities in the battery recycling process, including all the intermediary facilities in the process. In addition to consumer batteries, EPA states that it also is interested in information on electric vehicle and grid energy storage batteries.
     
  • Information on labeling guidelines for batteries regarding reuse and recycling: Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA is required to develop 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. To undertake this effort, EPA states that it would like to obtain input on the scope of the development of voluntary labeling guidelines and understand existing battery labeling guidelines, as well as other forms of communication materials for battery producers and consumers about the reuse and recycling of critical materials from batteries, including information on the existing communication materials that have been developed on the end-of-life management of batteries. In addition to labeling guidelines and communication materials for consumer batteries, EPA also is interested in communication materials for electric vehicle and grid energy storage batteries.
     
  • Information on battery reuse and recycling communication materials directed towards battery producers and consumers: Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA is required to develop other forms of communication materials for battery producers and consumers about the reuse and recycling of critical materials from batteries. To undertake this effort, EPA states that it would like to understand the existing communication materials that have been developed on the reuse and recycling of critical materials from batteries geared toward battery producers and consumers. EPA also would like to understand the existing communication materials that have been developed to help consumers on how and where to recycle their batteries. According to the RFI, in addition to communication materials about small consumer battery recycling, EPA also is interested in existing communications materials about large format (electric vehicle and grid energy storage) batteries and industrial batteries.
     

Following each information category, the RFI includes a list of suggested questions for stakeholders to consider in preparing comments. According to the RFI, EPA is interested in information about small format, large format, and industrial batteries. EPA encourages commenters to provide any other feedback or information that EPA should consider in developing best practices for the collection of batteries to be recycled, voluntary labeling guidelines for batteries, and communication materials for battery producers and consumers about the reuse and recycling of critical materials from batteries. EPA requests that commenters include, wherever possible, supporting data or other qualitative information such as information about the barriers and challenges to collecting batteries for recycling and battery labels, successful battery collection programs and battery labels, and details on measurable benefits for industry, government, or consumers.

Commentary

This RFI is part of a series of RFIs that EPA is issuing to inform the development of new programs under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Other RFIs that are related include those on the Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling Grant Program (87 Fed. Reg. 35200) and the Recycling Education and Outreach -- Grant Program and Model Recycling Program Toolkit (87 Fed. Reg. 35197). In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy will be issuing future information requests to advise their work to support battery recycling under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including several grant programs that support battery collection, safe storage and transportation, recycling, and second-use. The stakeholder input to this RFI will inform EPA’s efforts to develop best practices with the collection of batteries to be recycled, as well as to 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.

This request from EPA provides stakeholders an opportunity to inform and comment on best practices for the development of guidance and the progression of voluntary labeling. Efforts by foreign jurisdictions to tackle the complexity of battery recycling programs should also provide opportunities for comments from interested parties as EPA undertakes these efforts to better understand recovering and recycling from both consumer and industrial end uses. EPA provides, with this RFI, an opportunity to comment on specific activities of other parties, active in this space on a global scale, to weigh in and better inform future actions on this critical waste stream.

 
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