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NEW EPA RULES TO HELP SMOOTH PATH OF RECYCLING

The Environmental Protection Agency wants to make it easier for people to recycle batteries, battery powered tools and toys, thermometers with mercury and even farm equipment that contains some pesticides.

The agency on Thursday announced more flexible regulations governing common products that may contain some toxic materials. The new rules will keep more of the items out of landfills or off the side of roads where they may be dumped illegally, officials said."It's common sense to give Americans, and American businesses, easy ways to recycle products that may pose hazards in our homes and in our environment," said EPA Administrator Carol Browner.

Because of the toxic materials in such widely used items as batteries or consumer goods powered by batteries, the EPA has required special procedures to be followed during handling. Retailers and business groups have argued the strict rules have inhibited recycling efforts.

The revised regulations simplify packaging and handling requirements for such items when they are recycled. They also reduce the amount of paperwork required by businesses when large quantities are handled as part of the recycling process.

States also will be given greater flexibility in how to regulate such recycling programs.

The agency said the new rules are designed to make it easier for retailers to provide convenient collection centers in retail outlets where consumers can return the commonly used items that are of concern to the EPA because they contain small amounts of toxic material.

Browner said by making recycling programs more consumer friendly, fewer of the products containing batteries or other toxic chemicals will be sent to landfills or disposed of improperly or illegally.

"For the first time Americans will be able to voluntarily recycle common toxic items such as batteries and pesticides," said the EPA in a statement. "The wastes still must be properly recycled or treated before disposal."

The EPA has been under pressure both from Congress and the White House to make regulations more flexible and less burdensome.