Bill aims to help N.J. be leader in recycling of EV batteries

Can New Jersey be a leader in the recycling of electric vehicle batteries? That’s the aim of legislation authored by state Sen. Bob Smith (D-Piscataway) that was approved by the Senate Environment Committee on Monday.

The battery recycling bill, S3723, entitled the “Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Battery Management Act,” would create a statewide program that would require producers of electric vehicle batteries to develop policies and practices for the safe reuse, recycling or disposal of the lithium-ion batteries used in electric and hybrid-electric cars and trucks in the state.

Bob Smith. (New Jersey Legislature)

The bill would put the responsibility on the EV industry to create a framework that would facilitate a local market for recycled batteries and their ingredients.

Anyone seeking to discard an EV or EV battery would be able to bring it to a location designated by the producer, or to a recycling center authorized by the Department of Environmental Protection, under the bill. The producers would be required to accept the batteries at no cost to the consumer.

The bill also prohibits anyone from disposing the batteries in landfills.

Smith, who chairs the Environment and Energy Committee, said the bill aims to create an ancillary benefit to the use of EVs.

“The steady growth in the use of electric vehicles is good for the environment, public health and the economy,” he said. “We should take the next step by ensuring the safe and responsible management of the lithium batteries that are used to power these zero-emission vehicles. The best way to accomplish this is to create a ‘circular market’ that recycles or safely disposes the batteries.”

This circular market is good for the state’s economy, Smith said.

“Strengthening the lithium-ion battery aftermarket will help advance the (President Joe) Biden administration’s efforts to strengthen domestic production of EV components at the same time we promote a growing market in New Jersey,” he said. “We can take advantage of the opportunities created by the national EV policies by fostering a vibrant marketplace for electric vehicles and the products that support them.”

The need for such a bill is evident, Smith said.

A 2018 study found that only 50% of lithium batteries that reach the end of life are recycled.

The legislation would take effect one year after enactment, giving the industry the opportunity to put in place the business practices and the DEP the time to adopt rules and regulations for the program.