The Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI) has been formed by a group of battery manufacturers, recyclers, retailers, government bodies and environment groups to promote the collection, recycling and safe disposal of all batteries.
ABRI supports the principle of product stewardship: that responsibility for environmental management of products, including their recovery at end of life, is shared by organisations at every stage of the product life cycle…More >
The UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is consulting on proposed changes to Government Guidance on the Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009. The changes are intended to remove ambiguity about what constitutes a ‘portable battery’.
While all batteries weighing less than 4kg are considered to be portable (easily carried by hand) there are different interpretations being used for batteries between the weights of 4kg and 10kg. This is distorting the data used to calculate recycling rates. In 2012 the proportion of members obligations under the regulations being met by lead acid batteries was 83%, whereas the proportion of lead acid batteries placed on the market was only 8%. This apparent ‘over collection’ of lead acid batteries is because of a difference in the way that the definition of a portable battery is being applied at the two ends of the chain, i.e. when placed on the market and when recycled.
Many producer compliance schemes are currently able to comply with the batteries regulations using evidence generated by lead acid batteries alone. This creates a lack of incentive to invest in the collection and recycling of other portable battery types, and will make it more difficult to achieve the EU target of 45% by 2016.
The proposal is to introduce a single weight threshold of 4kg, so that any battery weighing less than this will be considered to be ‘hand carried’.
A paper published in Environmental Research Letters in January reports on research into the life cycle impacts and optimal logistics for recycling plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) batteries in California. One estimate is that PEVs will comprise 80% of new car sales in the US by 2050. In California alone a fully electrified car fleet, with 200 kg batteries lasting 7-10 years each, would result in a waste flow of 620,000 – 890,000 tonnes per year. California currently lacks the infrastructure to manage these batteries at end of life.
Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are the most common choice for PEV manufacturers based on their affordability and high energy density. There are a range of Li-ion battery chemistries either in use or under development. There are two recycling methods:
– Pyrometallurgy involves a kiln firing process followed by leaching to recover slag and valuable materials including nickel, cobalt and copper. Slag is sold for use in cement production.
– Hydrometallurgy uses a chemical leaching process and has the potential to recover lithium and aluminium in addition to the higher value materials, and is currently under development for commercial use.
The paper suggests that the recovery system for used PEV batteries would include:
– collection through car dealerships
– transport to dismantling centres, where they would be fully discharged and non-hazardous materials (plastics, copper and metals) separated for traditional recycling (the economics are most favourable for 2 dismantling facilities within California)
– transport of the battery cells to a centralised recycling facility.
Pyrometallurgy is considered to be the best recycling method at present. It has the potential for economic recovery of a large array of electrode chemistries, which is crucial as the process must be able to adapt to evolving battery technologies. The study identified the environmental benefits of recycling including a reduction in energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions.
Publication details: Hendrickson, Kavvada, Shah, Sathre and Scown (2015), Life-cycle implications and supply chain logistics of electric vehicle battery recycling in California, Environmental Research Letters, 10 (2015). Download the full paper here.
The Australian Energy Storage Conference will be held in Sydney on 3-4 June 2015. ABRI is hosting a panel discussion on battery recycling on Day 2 of the conference. So far the confirmed panel members include:
– Dr Helen Lewis, CEO of ABRI
– Andy Jackson, Director, Lex Enviro Services
– Will LeMessurier, Director, MRI (Aust) Pty Ltd.
Additional panellists will be announced soon. More information is available here.
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