Recycling is vital if we are going to curtail greenhouse gases and toxins that come from our landfills. However, not all recyclable materials should be treated in the same way. Batteries are considered hazardous waste and should never be tossed into the recycle bin because of the risks of fire or explosion. Lithium-ion batteries can be especially volatile and must be handled by professionals with the knowledge and experience necessary to handle these batteries safely. How can lithium batteries be recycled safely? Read on to learn more.
What Are Lithium-ion Batteries?
Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries that are used for numerous purposes. The batteries are made of cells in which lithium ions move from the negative electrode to the positive electrode during discharge and back when charging. Lithium-ion batteries impact the planet a bit less because they are rechargeable and not a single-use product. Their high-capacity power storage offers excellent performance and makes lithium-ion a popular battery choice for many commercial and industrial enterprises, including electric vehicle batteries.
Can Lithium Batteries Be Recycled?
Lithium-ion batteries are recyclable. However, special care is necessary because these batteries are especially volatile and potentially dangerous. They are technically considered hazardous products, and special precautions are required when handling lithium-ion batteries.
Where Are Lithium-ion Batteries Used?
Because of their size and ability to recharge for an extended period, lithium-ion batteries are used in scores of products. This includes:
- Bluetooth devices
- Car batteries
- Electric bikes
- Electric scooters
- EV batteries
- Industrial robots
- Marine craft
- Medical devices
- Mobile phones
- Outdoor equipment
- Power tools
- Production equipment
- Smart wearables
- Solar energy storage
How Are Lithium Batteries Recycled?
Recycling lithium-ion batteries is a crucial part of protecting our environment. Globally, only around nine per cent of batteries are recycled. This leaves a tremendous number of lithium-ion batteries improperly stored or on their way to a landfill.
The recycling process for lithium-ion batteries typically takes place in one of two ways:
- Pyrometallurgical processing: This is the thermal processing of recyclables at temperatures above 1200C. When using this process, copper, manganese, cobalt and nickel are easily separated from the battery. However, you cannot recover lithium and graphite via the thermal process.
- Hydrometallurgical processing: Using an aqueous solution, this process works through the steps of metal dissolution, concentration, purification, metal recovery
Unlike pyrometallurgical processing, lithium, graphite and all other valuable metals are extracted from the lithium-ion battery.
Why is Recycling Lithium-ion Batteries Difficult?
One drawback to recycling lithium-ion batteries is that the batteries are classified as hazardous. Because of the classification, great care is necessary to recycle lithium-ion batteries correctly.
A second issue that makes recycling lithium-ion batteries less likely is that the value of the components is low. This reduces the incentive to invest in lithium-ion battery recycling.
How Much of a Lithium Battery Can You Recycle?
Impressively, between 95 and 98 per cent of lithium-ion batteries are recyclable, and many are turned into new batteries. Additionally, the materials used to create lithium-ion batteries, such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt, are quite valuable when reclaimed from old batteries. This makes recycling lithium-ion batteries a win for the environment as well as a win for your wallet. Unfortunately, recycling rates are lower than desired.
Where Can I Recycle My Old Lithium Batteries?
For tips regarding how to dispose of lithium batteries, read our blog on the topic. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us today to organise the collection.
Even though lithium-ion batteries are challenging to recycle in some areas, everyone’s well-being must make an effort to recycle them. If you have questions about recyclable materials or need to arrange a pickup, please get in touch with us. Our professionals are happy to help you.
- Can lithium-ion batteries be recycled?
Yes, lithium-ion batteries can be recycled, but the process is complicated and requires specialised equipment and processes.
- Where can I recycle my lithium-ion batteries?
You can recycle your lithium-ion batteries at certified battery electronics recyclers that accept batteries such as us.
- What are the benefits of recycling batteries?
Recycling batteries prevents potentially hazardous materials from entering the waste stream, protects against fires that can be caused by trashed batteries, and conserves natural resources.
- What are some best management practices for safely managing damaged, defective, or recalled batteries?
Damaged, defective, or recalled batteries should not be managed under universal waste. Instead, they should be managed as hazardous waste. Contact your local solid waste or household hazardous waste program for more information on how to safely manage these types of batteries, or read our blog on the topic.