Infrastructure law takes on recycling, including what to do with old EV batteries

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It’s not just bridges and roads that are going to get an injection of federal support. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act contains key recycling-related provisions aimed at keeping plastics out of the oceans and reusing batteries, with a greater number of electric vehicles expected to take to the roads.

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Environmental groups welcomed the renewed attention, but some recycling experts warned that there is a gap between the federal vision and how local communities can carry out their recycling programs.

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The roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed Monday by President Joe Biden includes: recycle act, which sets aside $75 million for recycling education. This new initiative uses Environmental Protection Agency resources to educate homes and consumers about residential and community recycling programs, reduce pollution in the recycling stream, and support recycling infrastructure.

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Supporters said the bill also includes $275 million in grant money for Save Our Seas 2.0, an expansion of the only significant recycling-related bill that passed last year. That bill called for infrastructure updates and other measures to keep plastic out of waterways.

Another $200 million will help the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program, which at least one ocean group has called “the tip of the spear” for the US government to tackle the problem of ocean plastic waste both at home and abroad. goes.

“Fortunately, steps are being taken in the halls of power to improve recycling and reduce Over 11 million metric tons of plastic pollution enter our ocean every year,” said Nick Mallos, senior director of the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Program.

And a $100 million grant through the EPA is designed to help businesses adopt and improve pollution prevention and reduction practices.

The infrastructure bill also includes battery recycling funding.

The law provides $7.5 billion to help establish national EV charging systems and $5 billion for electric school buses. It also includes a battery material processing grant and a $6 billion for battery manufacturing and recycling grant.

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Megan Quinn in West Dive writes, “Proponents see inclusion as a clear sign that recycling is more seriously as an essential infrastructure after months of calls for the Biden administration to engage the industry in the broader national conversation.” is being taken.” A Recycling Industry Newspaper,

“Investing in better recycling infrastructure can be costly, and proponents see federal funding as a way to remove cost-related barriers to improving recycling in the United States,” she said.

for its part, Plastics Industry Association says it has stepped up efforts That includes better recording the amount of waste recyclable plastic materials and teaching companies that there is a viable business model, including offices and hospitals, to collect and recycle plastics and return them to the supply chain.

But most recycling advocates argue that a much larger change in use is needed to keep waste out of landfills and clog waterways. NPR and PBS frontline At the end of last year reported a month-long internal industry investigation on the recycling and plastics industry. Industry awareness that recycling will not keep plastics out of landfills and the environmental program dates back to early days, they found,

“There is serious doubt that [recycling plastic] can ever be made viable on economic grounds,” an industry insider wrote in a 1974 speech. Yet the industry spent millions asking people to recycle, because, as one former top industry insider told NPR, recycling sold plastics, even if that wasn’t true.

All used plastics can be turned into new things, but it’s expensive to pick up, sort, and melt. Plastic also degrades every time it is reused, which means it cannot be reused more than once or twice.

On the other hand, new plastic is cheaper. This oil is made from CL00,
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and gas, and it’s almost always less expensive and more versatile to start fresh.

On Monday, the EPA released what it’s calling 2021 National Recycling Strategy “To address the major recycling challenges facing the nation and to create a stronger, more resilient, and cost-effective municipal solid waste recycling system.”

The 2021 strategy marks the first time the EPA’s recycling strategy will address the climate impacts of the production, use and disposal of materials and focus on the human health and environmental impacts of waste and waste-related facilities in highly burdened communities, it said in a release. stated in.

“Our nation’s recycling system needs significant improvements to better serve the American people,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “As we move forward with this strategy, EPA is committed to ensuring that historically underserved and overburdened communities benefit from our work.”

Dylan D. Thomas, vice president of external affairs at The Recycling Partnership, said recyclers are anxiously thinking about how best to spend [EPA] grant grants, but he worried that it “may not be years, weeks or months” before those dollars are issued to eligible recipients.

“It’s so exciting to see those kinds of dollars from the federal government to support recycling programs, but they’re really just a drop in a bucket, and [implementation] Still too far of course,” he said during a panel discussion at the National Recycling Congress earlier this month.

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