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EPA announces winners of recycling infrastructure grants

The newly-administered Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling grants, also known as SWIFR, will fund the composting program, MRF upgrades, and more.

The U.S. EPA announced Wednesday the winners of $105 million worth of Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling grants (SWIFR) intended to boost recycling in communities, organics, and waste management systems across the country.

A total of 25 communities will be awarded $73 million through the program. The EPA will also provide another $32 million in total for States and Territories for assistance in information collection and solid waste management planning and other needs for implementation according to the report.

The funds will be used to fund community projects connected to an bio-energy composting plant powered by solar in Baltimore and the transport station that is located within Minneapolis; a new MRF located in Lucas County, Ohio; and residential organics collection improvements in Bozeman, Montana,among others.The grants will also assist in the purchase of MRF equipment as well as recycling vehicles, collection vehicles, anaerobic digestion as well as projects across the U.S. and its territories, according to the EPA.

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The EPA states that the grant is their “largest recycling investment in 30 years.” Certain recycle and waste stakeholders have been looking forward to the announcement of this infrastructure fund from the beginning of 2020, since Congress approved the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act. The legislation didn’t have any funding attached to it prior to when President Joe Biden was able to sign the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021.

Other grants beneficiaries consist of $3.9 million for an anaerobic digest program within Los Angeles County; $1.5 million for reuse programs in Hawai’i County. 4 million dollars for curbside collections at Trujillo Alto Puerto Rico; and almost $1 million to purchase MRF technology for West Monroe, Louisiana, according to a report released to the EPA.

On a press conference announcing these grants on Tuesday of this week, EPA deputy administrator Janet McCabe stated that a large portion of the grants for communities, which range between $500,000 and $4 million per grant, are intended to aid “disadvantaged communities that have been traditionally underserved by recycling services,” as well as designed to create jobs, primarily in rural and urban regions. Around $56 million of grant funds – which is estimated to be 76% – is devoted to projects that are located in what the EPA is defining as “disadvantaged” areas, she stated.

The grant program’s allocation of funding will help to fund initiatives like the Biden administration’s Justice40 initiative, which aims to ensure that 40 percent of federal programs are aimed at “communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution,” the EPA declared in an announcement.

During the conference, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced that his city’s SWIFR grant of $4 million to aid in the redevelopment of the city’s North Transfer Station will assist the city in reaching its goal of recycling and compost 80 percent of the waste it produces by 2030. It will also allow those living on the city’s north side to access recycling and waste services, which they previously had to travel for long distances in order to access.

“A crucial element to making progress toward achieving zero waste goalsthe key is the use ofto provide residents with a variety of options to recycle. We can tell from research and data that the majority of people won’t be able to go out of their ways for recycling,” he said.

In addition to the grants for community-based projects, States and Territories will also receive additional funds ranging between $360,000 and $750,000 each, McCabe added. The grants will be available to the states and territories of all 56 states as well as those in the District of Columbia, the EPA stated. The projects under the state and territorial grant category will include waste management planning in locations such as Colorado and Texas, as well as data collection improvement within Connecticut and New York, recycling field research and data collection in Arkansas, as well as a variety of other projects.

Nena Shaw, director of the sustainability and conservation of resources division, stated on the call that the collection of data is a crucial aspect of the grant application process. Every community grant has the requirement that recipients gather data about things like emissions, the quantity of materials recycled, and other relevant metrics. “All of these projects are going to improve our data collection, and hopefully our ability to harmonize some of the data across the nation,” she added.

In the meantime, The EPA is working to improve the method it employs for obtaining and publishing its Statistics and Figures on materials, waste, and recycling report intended to provide high-level information on the country’s recycling rate as well as other information related to recycling. The EPA released its last report in 2020, based on the data it collected in 2018.

The announcement made for states, territories, and communities is the initial round of funds from the SWIFR program. The EPA is expected to announce recipients of recycling grants intended for intertribal consortia and tribes in the “coming months.”

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Jane S. King

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