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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 28, 2021, DOE issued a $22.5 million request for proposals (RFP) for projects that support recovery, recycling, and reuse of material waste generated by the manufacturing sector.  DOE EERE stated that “[p]rojects funded through this solicitation will develop technologies that reduce embodied energy and carbon emissions associated with the production and consumption of metals, polymers, fibers, and electronic waste, as well as identify training activities that will expand the American manufacturing workforce.”  The projects will be managed by DOE’s Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute, which is funded by DOE EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office.


By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers are leading analyses of recycling, repairing, and reusing solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in support of NREL’s mission to incentivize a circular economy for energy materials.  According to NREL, the increase in the installation of PV systems is leading to environmental and supply chain concerns because the technology relies on imports and mining of raw materials to meet domestic demands.  NREL predicts that, by 2030, decommissioned PV modules could total a million tons of waste in the United States or one percent of the world’s e-waste.  Concerned by these facts, NREL researchers have been leading ongoing analyses of the end-of-life management of PV modules in the current market.  Taylor Curtis, an NREL sustainability analyst, highlights that “[r]epair, reuse, or recovery of this equipment would reduce negative environmental impacts, reduce resource constraints, and stimulate U.S. economic growth.”
According to NREL research, if best practices are applied and regulatory barriers removed in the future, the U.S. industry for recovered PV materials could total $60 million by 2030 or $2 billion by 2050, from modules alone.  A summary of NREL’s recommended best practices for retiring PV systems is detailed in this report, and a detailed analysis of current federal and state regulatory barriers to PV module recycling and recovery is available in NREL’s March 2021 report titled “Solar Photovoltaic Module Recycling: A Survey of U.S. Policies and Initiatives.”


By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On December 17, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced the seven winners of Phase II of the Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize. The prize is designed to facilitate innovative solutions to collecting, storing, and transporting discarded lithium-ion batteries for eventual recycling. Its goal is to develop processes that have the potential to capture 90 percent of all discarded or spent lithium-based batteries in the United States and reintroduce key materials into the U.S. supply chain. The seven selected prize teams will focus on building industry partnerships to design, simulate, and prototype a proof-of-concept solution. Each Phase II winner will receive a $357,000 cash prize in addition to $100,000 in non-cash vouchers to use at DOE National Laboratories and approved organizations within the American-Made Challenges Network. The winners will also advance to the third and final phase of the prize that entails a pilot validation.


On November 12, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other environmental and scientific experts to create the Nutrient Recycling Challenge (NRC). The competition was created to develop technology to recycle nitrogen and phosphorus from the more than one billion tons of livestock waste that is produced annually. The NRC is made up of four phases, allowing innovators to turn concepts into designs, and designs into working pilot projects used by participating farms. Phase I includes a $20,000 cash prize that can be split among up to four semi-finalists. It began on November 16, 2015, and will end on January 15, 2016, with semi-finalists announced in March 2016. Semi-finalists will also be invited to a two-day partnering and investor summit in Washington, D.C. and will gain entry into the next phases of the challenge. The phases will continue with larger awards being distributed until final awards are announced in January 2017, and the pilot project will be started.