On June 9, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) published a request for information (RFI) in the Federal Register in order to develop best practices on battery generation, collecting, recycling, and reuse as well as labeling standards for battery end-of-life management. The RFI also directs supplemental virtual meetings that EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery will host with interested stakeholders during 2022 that are intended to help the Agency meet its obligations under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Comments are due July 11, 2022. Stakeholders involved in the battery supply chain should take note of the request and consider providing feedback to inform EPA action.

The RFI is related to two solid waste recycling programs that were established by the IIJA and that the Agency is directed to implement: (1) the development of best practices for the collection of batteries to be recycled and (2) the establishment of a program to promote battery recycling via voluntary labeling guidelines, and other forms of communication materials, for both battery producers and consumers. The RFI specifically solicits information on

  • suggestions for the scope and prioritization of the battery collection best practices
  • end-of-life collection and management of batteries, including facilities that engage in the recycling process
  • battery labeling guidelines generally, including the scope of the future voluntary labeling guidelines and knowledge of the current battery labeling guidelines
  • suggestions for the communication materials that EPA is directed to develop under the Act

The current request is part of a larger trend by the federal government aimed at addressing supply chain issues related to critical minerals such as lithium, which is a key component of not only batteries but other products needed for the production of clean energy. By building out programs to recycle properly and to educate battery producers and consumers, along with other programs to be implemented by the Department of Energy, EPA endeavors to “recover critical materials from batteries to strengthen the nation’s battery supply chain.”

The RFI comes at a time when governments are increasing their efforts to develop comprehensive policies and legislation surrounding lifecycle management of electric vehicle (EV) batteries. In March 2022, California’s Environmental Protection Agency released its Lithium-ion Car Battery Recycling Advisory Group Final Report, which publishes the advisory group’s recommended policies for EV battery management that resulted from two years of information gathering and analysis. The final report evaluated the current state of lithium-ion battery end-of-life management, the existing regulatory landscape, and feedback from public comments, and ultimately recommended several specific policies to define responsibility regarding end-of-life lithium-ion battery management.

Similarly, the European Union (EU) is well advanced with its own legislative process for cradle-to-grave regulation of EV batteries, with legislation due by early 2023. The EU’s legislation will establish extended producer responsibility for the collection and recycling of batteries but will go much further with requirements on, among others, supply chain due diligence, the carbon footprint, minimum recycled content, design for repair and reuse, recycling efficiency levels, and a digital battery “passport” to capture key lifetime events.

The RFI is directed to the general public and stakeholders involved throughout the battery lifecycle as well as researchers; academia; state, tribal, and local governments; federal agencies; community groups; nongovernmental organizations; and international organizations. Information is due from interested parties by July 11, 2022. While not mandatory, interested parties should consider participating in the RFI to have an early voice in the administrative process.