Why You Shouldnt Throw Lithium
Lithium-ion batteries are considered hazardous universal waste. These batteries are different from traditional AA-batteries because they can cause destruction. No, that aint hyperbole. Literal destruction.
If you throw a product with a lithium-ion battery into the garbage, youre risking starting a fire in your home. If the battery ends up in a garbage truck, the compacter could break the battery and start a fire as the truck is driving down the highway.
Last year there was a massive fire at a recycling facility up in Blaine because a cellphone was thrown into a household recycling bin and made its way into the transfer facility undetected. The battery was punctured and caused a devastating fire to the recycling plant.
Lithium-ion batteries burn at a very fast rate at high heat, and the fire is tough to stop once it starts. To avoid causing all-out mayhem, please please PLEASE dont throw your batteries in your trash or recycling bin.
Join Martin At European Battery Raw Materials Conference 2022
On day one of this years European Battery Raw Materials conference, Martin will be moderating a fascinating panel discussion on establishing close loop EV battery recycling. Hell be joined by Dr Vipin Tyagi from ACE Green Recycling, Megan OConnor from Nth Cycle, Michael Insulan from Commercial Electra and Hans Eric Melin from Circular Energy Storage.
The panel will cover questions including:
- How much of BRMs can be recuperated from recycling, including the potential for mining waste and failed battery cells?
- Can LFP be economically recycled?
- Black mass processing: Can it be a profitable operation?
- When can we expect to reach the scale of Chinese capacity for black mass treatment?
The Nascent Recycling Industry Needs To Economically Deconstruct Lots Of Formats
by Shel Evergreen – Apr 19, 2022 9:40 pm UTC
Electric vehicles, power tools, smartwatchesLithium-ion batteries are everywhere now. However, the materials to make them are finite, and sourcing them has environmental, humanitarian, and economic implications. Recycling is key to addressing those, but a recent study shows most Lithium-ion batteries never get recycled.
Lithium and several other metals that make up these batteries are incredibly valuable. The cost of raw lithium is roughly seven times what you’d pay for the same weight in lead, but unlike lithium batteries, almost all lead-acid batteries get recycled. So theres something beyond pure economics at play.
It turns out that there are good reasons why lithium battery recycling hasnt happened yet. But some companies expect to change that, which is a good thing since recycling lithium batteries will be an essential part of the renewable energy transition.
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Challenges Of Pack And Module Disassembly
Different vehicle manufacturers have adopted different approaches for powering their vehicles, and electric vehicles on the market possess a wide variety of different physical configurations, cell types and cell chemistries. This presents a challenge for battery recycling. Figure details three different types of battery cell design, and their respective packs from electric vehicles in the marketplace from model year 2014. It can be seen that the three vehicles possess very different physical configurations, requiring different approaches for disassembly, particularly regarding automation. It can be seen in Fig. that at the different scales of disassembly, the format and relative size of the different components differ, presenting challenges for automation. The differing form factors and capacities may also restrict applications for re-use. And finally, Fig. illustrates that manufacturers employ varying cell chemistries , which will necessitate different approaches to materials reclamation and strongly affect the overall economics of recycling. Whereas the prismatic and pouch cells have planar electrodes, the cylindrical cells are tightly coiled, presenting additional challenges to separating the electrodes for direct recycling processes.
Fig. 2: Examples of three different battery packs and modules in use in current electric cars.
Battery Recycling By Location
Battery recycling is an international industry, with many nations exporting their used or spent lead-acid batteries to other nations for recycling. Consequently, it can be difficult to get accurate analyses of individual nations’ exact rate of domestic recycling.
Further, in many countries, lead-acid battery recycling is commonly done informally by individuals or informal enterprises, with little or no formal record-keeping, nor effective regulatory oversight.
ULABs and SLABs are generally designated as “hazardous waste” and subject to relevant safety, storage, handling and transport regulations, though those vary from country to country. A multilateral international agreement, the Basel Convention, officially governs all transboundary movements of hazardous waste for recovery or disposal, among the 172 signatory countries. , and with Canada and with Mexico .
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Guide To Recycling Batteries: Lithium
April 20, 2022|hightechr|Blog
When batteries are thrown into landfills, they leach toxic chemicals like cadmium, lithium, and lead, into the soil. These poisonous substances will eventually infiltrate nearby streams and rivers. Additionally, many of these substances can even pollute the air. Thats why you should opt for battery recycling.
Nowadays, recycling batteries has never been easier. In this guide, well cover what you should do with your old batteries, and highlight just how easy it is to recycle lithium-ion, car, and household batteries.
What Materials Are In Li
The material composition, or chemistry, of a battery is tailored to its intended use. Li-ion batteries are used in many different applications and many different environmental conditions. Some batteries are designed to provide a small amount of energy for a long time, such as operating a cellphone, while others must provide larger amounts of energy for a shorter period, such as in a power tool. Li-ion battery chemistry can also be tailored to maximize the batterys charging cycles or to allow it to operate in extreme heat or cold. In addition, technological innovation also leads to new chemistries of batteries being used over time. Batteries commonly contain materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, and titanium, as well as graphite and a flammable electrolyte. However, there is always on-going research into developing Li-ion batteries that are less hazardous or that meet the requirements for new applications.
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New Approach Aims To Improve Purity Of Recycled Battery Materials
Researcher Kae Fink leads direct recycling technology development for lithium-ion batteries at NREL.
As the primary choice for high-powered personal electronics, electric vehicles, and grid-scale storage solutions, lithium-ion batteries continue to dominate the marketplace. To meet clean energy goals of the future, researchers must develop safe and sustainable recycling processes for these batteries.
According to research from the Rochester Institute of Technology, an estimated 2.9 million Li-ion battery packs for electric vehicles alone will reach the end of their usefulness and no longer operate at peak capacitytermed end of lifeby the year 2040. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is in a race against time to optimize recycling processes to maintain Li-ion supply chain stability and mitigate environmental hazards associated with the disposal of these batteries by improving the integrity of recycled materials.
Its A Widespread Problem But Not Well
No large-scale database keeps track of battery-caused fires, Mr. Lerner said. But the fires have occurred around the world.
The popularity of e-bikes in New York City grew during the pandemic as people looked for alternatives to public transportation and ride-sharing services, Mr. Lerner said. But their use increased before the government could put guidelines in place.
The New York City Housing Authority had proposed a ban on storing e-bikes in buildings but faced pushback from people like food couriers whose jobs depend on them. The authority said it is still working on steps for a proposed new rule.
The issue remains top of mind for housing managers. A sign outside the Manhattan apartment complex where the fire this month occurred read, No pedal or e-bikes allowed beyond this point.
The City Council is considering several battery safety measures and held a hearing Monday night. Laws that would ban sales of noncertified batteries and require educating people about the risks of powered mobility devices are among the measures being considered.
Leny Feliu, a founder of Safer Charging, said her brother is a delivery person. He makes his money that way and I want him to continue to make his money, but we need to provide a safe way of charging these items, she said.
The property management companies Douglas Elliman and AKAM, which oversee about 700 apartment complexes in New York City, have begun to communicate with residents and managers about lithium-ion battery safety.
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How To Properly Recycle Lithium
The Environmental Risks Of Improper Lithium
Depending on the manufacturer, lithium-ion batteries can contain varying amounts of nickel, lithium, manganese, cobalt, and other chemicals. These materials need to be mined from the ground and refined, a process that can result in harmful environmental contamination. Cobalt mining has also been linked to human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where 70% of the worlds cobalt supply is mined. Child labor has even been documented in these cobalt mines.
During its lifetime, a lithium-ion battery wont release any pollutants. Once it reaches the end of its life, however, battery disposal methods will determine its environmental impact. Unfortunately, most batteries used today end up in landfills.
When these batteries end up in landfills, they release environmental contaminants, including toxic heavy metals like cobalt, manganese, and nickel. Lithium-ion batteries can also create underground fires in landfills where they can slowly burn for long periods, releasing toxic chemicals from surrounding trash.
As battery production worldwide increases, battery recycling industries need to keep pace. Otherwise, electric vehicle batteries will reach the end of their useful life with nowhere to go other than the landfill. These batteries become impossible to recover materials from once they are buried in a landfill.
Thankfully, the same metals that can make these batteries dangerous in landfills can be valuable to battery recycling companies.
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An Integrated Approach To Contaminant Detection
To pinpoint these impurities, NREL and ANL combined electrochemical analysis with isothermal microcalorimetry to identify characteristic “fingerprints” for each metallic contaminant, including iron, aluminum, copper, silicon, and magnesium. This synergistic approach allows researchers to confirm the presence of contaminants and assess the impact of each metallic impurity on the overall performance of the recycled electrodes.
This novel approach can detect unique signals for each of these contaminants, said NREL energy storage researcher Kae Fink, who leads the Li-ion direct recycling technology development effort. As a result, researchers can distinguish between problematic elements, such as aluminum or copper, and develop specific methods to meet purity standards for recycled battery materials.
These findings unlock the potential to optimize direct recycling methods by highlighting which contaminants are most problematic in recycled materials and informing strategies for remediation and repurification to remove impurities. In addition, this analysis method is applicable beyond a laboratory environment, informing the development of industry-wide quality control metrics for recycled materials and leading to increased confidence in upcycled Li-ion batteries.
Us Department Of Transportations Check The Box Campaign
The DOTs Check the Box campaign is a public awareness campaign that seeks to prevent serious incidents by increasing public awareness of everyday items that are considered hazardous materials in transportation this includes batteries that are packaged and sent for recycling or disposal. Batteries must be correctly identified, packaged, and labeled via package markings before being sent for recycling or disposal. For more information, go to DOTs Check the Box campaign and check out the campaign video.
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About Our Recycling Services
We really dig recycling. We like it so much, in fact, that if you dont have time to drop off at our warehouse in Burnsville, well gladly come to you. Our fleet of trucks run routes across the Twin Cities every week, making both in-home and curbside pickups.
To request more info, fill out the form below or call us directly at .
We Can No Longer Treat The Batteries As Disposable Shirley Meng
If the millions upon millions of Li batteries that will give out after around 10 years or so of use are recycled more efficiently, however, it will help neutralise all that energy expenditure. Several labs have been working on refining more efficient recycling methods so that, eventually, a standardised, eco-friendly way to recycle Li batteries will be ready to meet skyrocketing demand.
“We have to find ways to make it enter what we call a circular lifecycle, because the lithium and the cobalt and nickel take a lot of electricity and a lot of effort to be mined and refined and made into the batteries. We can no longer treat the batteries as disposable,” says Shirley Meng, professor in energy technologies at the University of California, San Diego.
How to recycle Li batteries
A Li battery cell has a metal cathode, or positive electrode that collects electrons during the electrochemical reaction, made of lithium and some mix of elements that typically include cobalt, nickel, manganese and iron. It also has an anode, or the electrode that releases electrons to the external circuit, made of graphite, a separator and an electrolyte of some kind, which is the medium that transports the electrons between cathode and anode. The lithium ions travelling from the anode to the cathode form an electric current. The metals in the cathode are the most valuable parts of the battery, and these are what chemists focus on preserving and refurbishing when they dismantle an Li battery.
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Can You Recycle Lithium
Yes, lithium-ion batteries are recyclable, but the process is a bit complicated. This might be the reason why youre struggling to find a recycling center that processes this kind of waste.
The first challenge to lithium recycling is that you cant handle those batteries like any other electronic waste.
Lithium is a highly reactive element.
To leave chemistry aside, lets just say that dumping a lithium battery into a load of paper recycling wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do.
Increased heat or electric discharge can cause the power cells to burst into flames. Cases like this are rare but are being reported increasingly often.
Even when done properly, stockpiling of water li-ion batteries is potentially unsafe and environmentally risky. Unlike other materials, these batteries cant be reused directly, so recycling is the only viable solution. In addition, lithium battery recycling reduces the need for new mineral extraction, which is always a win for the environment.
So how is recycling done?
First, qualified technicians need to disassemble batteries into modules. These professionals are trained high-voltage specialists who use insulated tools to avoid electrocution or short-circuiting the pack.
Short-circuiting a lithium-ion battery is no picnic. It may lead to rapid discharge and overheating that in return generate noxious byproduct gasses that may cause a cell to explode.
Direct Physical Recycling Process
Direct recovery is a process of recovering useful components from spent LIBs without using chemical methods . Before handling LIBs, they were discharged and disassembled into thousands of cells. Then, the small cells were treated with supercritical CO2, and the electrolytes were extracted and treated in this process. After lowering the temperature and pressure, CO2 can be separated from the electrolyte and the electrolyte can be regenerated. The cells were then disassembled, broken and sorted. Finally, the cathode material was collected and reused .
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More Pores Faster Charge
Wang and his colleagues compared the particles in their recycled cathode powder with those in commercially manufactured cathode powder . They found that the recycled powder particles were more porous, with particularly large voids in the center of each one. These characteristics provide room for the cathode crystal to swell slightly as lithium ions squeeze into it, and this wiggle room keeps the crystal from cracking as easily as cathodes built from scratch. Such cracking is a major cause of battery degradation over time.
More pores also mean more exposed surface area, where the chemical reactions that are necessary to charge the battery can happenand this is why Wangs recycled batteries charge faster than their commercially manufactured counterparts. A future ambition could be to design all cathodes to have this superior structure rather than just those made from recycled stuff, Wang says.
End Of Life Processing For Lithium Ion Batteries
After a lithium-ion battery has been used up, extra care must be taken with how it is handled. Negative consequences can result if batteries are handled inappropriately, such as fire and pollution.
How do you recognise a lithium-ion battery? The identification mark li-ion appears on every lithium-ion battery. This can either be etched into the material or applied to the battery through a sticker.
Are Lithium Ion Batteries Recyclable
Short answer? Not easily. Lithium ion batteries are rechargeable batteries used in several different types of technology, but most pertinently, solar storage batteries like the Tesla Powerwall and electric vehicle car batteries.
As more and more lithium ion batteries are put to use, the world must develop a way to recycle them. Lets dive into why it is currently a challenge to recycle them, what you can do with old lithium batteries, and the future of battery recycling.
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The Future Of Lithium
To keep pace with production and prevent these batteries from ending up in landfills, battery recycling needs to ramp up. The number of electric vehicles predicted to be hitting the road in the coming years means that manufacturers, the government, and the public need to work together to prevent the heavy environmental contamination caused by lithium-ion batteries.
Batteries can be an integral part of many green technologies. These batteries have enabled the coming electric revolution, drastically cutting the production of harmful greenhouse gases. These same batteries make it possible to store the power collected from renewable resources like wind and solar. Advances in battery technology are a fundamental part of reducing humanitys reliance on fossil fuels.
So why allow lithium-ion batteries themselves to be a polluting technology?
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