Folders showing grants, projects and funding titles.

As the EPA issues tens of millions in grants, it is also funding research to ensure that grant money is used effectively. | Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock

The U.S. EPA is sponsoring a study of the costs and benefits of municipal recycling programs, and at the same time the agency is directing more funding toward the sector. 

“Despite numerous reported benefits of recycling, many areas lack a dedicated program for various reasons, including economic challenges, and many materials that could be recycled are not,” a press release from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine noted. 

“Recognizing a need to better understand the costs and benefits of administering MSW recycling programs,” the release continued, “Congress called on the National Academies to conduct a study on the programmatic and economic costs of these programs and to produce recommendations to facilitate their effective implementation.”

Accordingly, a committee will review current cost information of recycling programs in municipal, county, state and tribal governments, then provide several options, including policy approaches, to help facilitate effective implementation of more and better programs. 

The analysis will include environmental justice considerations such as different population sizes and demographics, different geographical locations, different economies, the type of recycling program and its capabilities, infrastructure needs, end market opportunities and various mandates such as single-stream vs. dual-stream or curbside food and yard material pickup services.

In-scope materials are paper, metals, glass, PET and HDPE, food scraps and yard material that are “converted into raw materials and used in the production of new products.” Textiles, e-scrap, construction and demolition debris, household hazardous waste, auto bodies, municipal sludge, combustion ash and industrial process wastes are specifically out of scope for the study, the press release noted. 

Grant awards

In addition, the EPA recently announced its plans to reclassify solar panels as universal waste instead of hazardous waste and to create a universal waste category specifically for lithium-ion batteries in order to streamline and increase recycling of the materials. 

The state agency also released over $90 million in recycling grants nationwide. That includes $33 million in Recycling Education and Outreach grants, which went to 25 recipients. Just under $5 million went to projects in the Mid-Atlantic region, $1.2 million for Long Beach, Calif., more than $2 million to projects in Maine and New Hampshire and $1.5 million for Hawai’i projects, among others. 

More than $60 million was also awarded to 59 grantees in Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling (SWIFR) grants for Tribes and Intertribal Consortia. Those include just under $8 million going to Tribal recycling infrastructure projects in the Pacific Southwest; $9.2 million to several Tribal Nations in EPA Region 8, which includes Montana and North Dakota; and $3.8 million to several EPA Region 7 Tribal Nations, including the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas.

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