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Public Comments on U.S. EPA Battery Initiative Foreshadow End-of-life Concerns

On June 9, 2022, the U.S. EPA published a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register seeking public comments on the end-of-life management of batteries and current labeling requirements.  The U.S. EPA initiated the RFI as part of the agency’s responsibility to develop best practices regarding collection and recycling of batteries, as well as promoting battery recycling through voluntary labeling guidelines and communications as directed by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.    

During the relatively short public comment period, stakeholders raised numerous concerns relating to the current state of battery recycling and increased use of batteries as we transition to a low carbon future.

Some of the key issues raised by the stakeholders included:

  • recommendations for national battery labeling standard/protocol;
  • reduced financial incentives for recycling due to phasing-out of expensive battery components, like cobalt, as technology develops and cheaper products enter the market;
  • lack of current recycling of lithium ion batteries, including minimal recovery and recycling of battery components compared to other recycled materials like glass or plastic; and
  • environmental concerns related to cheaper options for end-of-life management (e.g., disposal via land-filling, export to countries with weaker environmental standards) compared to more expensive current options (e.g., recycling)

U.S. EPA’s RFI is an initial step in the agency’s goal to refine battery management practices while batteries are increasingly utilized.  Understandably, the agency seeks information and stakeholder input to ensure any future requirements are reasonable requirements based on current industry standards and practices, given the speed at which battery technology is progressing.

While the comment period closed on July 11, 2022, the final report on the topics of the RFI is not due until November 2023. Stakeholders should watch developments in this space closely as the findings and recommendations could materialize into new requirements applicable to battery and car manufacturers, and other third parties increasingly manufacturing or relying on battery technology, regarding appropriate labeling and adequate management of end-of-life for batteries.   

This stakeholder input will inform the Agency's efforts to develop best practices with respect to 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.

Tags

esg, energy, clean energy, batteries, battery storage, environment

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