- The U.S. EPA announced this week an estimated $2 billion in funding is available for local projects, including waste-related initiatives, through its Community Challenge Grants program.
- Among many potential focus areas, the program encourages applications for two waste-specific categories: “Waste reduction and management to support a circular economy” and “safe management and disposal of solid and hazardous waste.”
- Applications will be open for a year, closing on Nov. 21, 2024, and will be reviewed on a rolling basis. According to the agency, this “allows applicants to utilize technical assistance and possibly resubmit a new application if not initially selected.”
This funding, which comes from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, is described by the EPA as the “single largest investment in environmental justice going directly to communities in history.” The agency said the program is designed in a way that will enable disadvantaged communities to access funding for climate-related projects and advance elements of President Biden’s Justice40 initiative.
“This historic, unprecedented funding has the promise to turn disadvantaged and overburdened areas into healthy, resilient, and thriving communities for current and future generations,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan in a statement.
Examples of eligible proposals in the waste reduction category include “efforts to reduce food waste (e.g., composting, anaerobic digestors), or to promote the reduction, reuse, and recycling of disaster debris, construction and demolition debris, and other materials and products.” Agency guidance said this might entail projects such as a community-scale composting program, edible food recovery programs, educational campaigns about the climate benefits of reducing food waste or a community-scale recycling program.
Projects proposed in this category are expected to measure progress in terms of pounds or tons of waste diverted from landfills, recycled or composted. The agency anticipates such projects should lead to “cleaner communities” and lower emissions from waste being disposed in landfills or incinerators.
Examples of proposals in the solid and hazardous waste category include “the purchase of equipment and the development of facilities” to manage this material. This might involve equipment for hazardous waste sampling, collection and processing infrastructure for household hazardous waste or electronics, projects that reduce demand for single-use plastic products (such as water bottle refill stations and water fountains) and waste transfer or recycling infrastructure.
EPA will measure results from these grants through categories such as the amount of tires diverted from disposal, increased access to residential composting options and the amount of new infrastructure “installed in underserved communities,” among other metrics.
The agency is designating $200 million of the funding to offer technical assistance to applicants and grant recipients, and it is designating target investment amounts for five categories of recipients. This includes $150 million for tribes in Alaska, $300 million for other tribal communities, $50 million for U.S. territories, $50 million for “disadvantaged unincorporated communities” and $100 million for non-tribal communities near the southern border with Mexico.
The newly available funding follows last month’s award of an estimated $128 million worth of grants for other environmental justice-focused projects, including multiple waste and recycling proposals. That funding also came from the Inflation Reduction Act, but through separate initiatives.
The EPA also has been active in doling out grants for waste and recycling projects with funding from the 2021 infrastructure law. Recent examples include $33 million for recycling education projects, $60 million for waste infrastructure in tribal communities and $105 million for waste and recycling projects in various other communities.