August 2023 Solid Waste Working Group Update

August 15, 2023

The August meeting of the Solid Waste Working Group (SWWG) was a full one touching on NHDES grants, composting food waste, the challenges to consistent and safe disposal of lithium-ion batteries, the Solid Waste Management Plan, and extended producer responsibility.

The NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) will be issuing grants for food waste and other waste reduction in the coming year. NHDES has a goal to solicit grant applications after establishing the rules for the program in the summer of 2024. These grants will be available to municipalities, businesses, and nonprofits for education and infrastructure.
With the change to composting regulations in April of 2022, more municipalities are looking to compost food waste. NRRA will be working to create a "template" model for how municipalities can compost food waste on site. In addition, the group discussed the importance of getting businesses and larger food waste generators to divert food waste to increase end markets for smaller generators like municipalities. NRRA executive director, Reagan Bissonnette, shared NRRA's Food Composting and Diversion Services Resource Page to all SWWG members in a follow-up email. 
Importantly, the group discussed at length the fire hazards lithium ion batteries create and the need for public education about the dangers so they will care and pay attention. Reagan shared NRRA's new battery toolkit verbally and later by email with the group. Two barriers residents face when managing lithium batteries or lithium battery-containing devices - such as laptops or cell phones - were identified and include data privacy concerns and not knowing where to take batteries. There is the potential for a 2024 legislative filing related to lithium ion battery management and all SWWG members agreed that lithium ion batteries are very important to get a handle on.
NHDES has been tracking their progress on implementing the state's Solid Waste Management Plan. Additionally, the SWWG discussed how NHDES can track how additional entities are also making progress on implementation. Reagan volunteered to send NHDES a list of all the ways in which NRRA is helping advance specific plan action items, many under our current USDA Recycling Tools of the Trade grant.
Finally, the group discussed extended producer responsibility (EPR) for containers and how Coca Cola now supports EPR versus a bottle redemption program (aka bottle bill). Group members hope to better understand the mechanics of how container EPR would work and may set up a presentation at a future SWWG meeting.