Robotics, fast cars, and recycling
How Lithium battery recycling can make or break our planet and the electric vehicle market
We’ve all heard of the company Tesla. They’re breaking barriers on the ground and up in space. Elon Musk, love him or hate him, has a clear vision of the world running on green energy and we’re here for it. Electric vehicles are now being made by multiple car manufacturers and they all use Li-ion batteries (Lithium-Ion)…but these are posing a problem for the future of green transportation.
Although electric vehicles are rising in popularity, this growth cannot continue without a sustainable recycling solution. We, as a local and worldwide recycling community, need to not only reach for the stars but take care of this planet we call home. Sustainable transportation while a great solution for today needs to be designed for tomorrow.
Let’s start by understand what electric vehicle (EV) batteries are comprised of. The majority of the materials are made up of a mixture of lithium, manganese, cobalt, and nickel. These are materials that we can find through mining and refining natural resources, but obtaining these materials can be expensive and damaging to the environment. Continuously mining for these materials is not something the earth can sustain long term. We have to find a way to recycle the batteries we have already made, as each EV uses hundreds of these batteries to operate.
It’s estimated that only about 5% of Li-ion batteries are currently being recycled, and much less in some countries. The reason why is that it is an extremely energy-intensive processing to recover the materials in a usable form. Basically, it’s currently costing more recycle batteries than make new ones. When lithium, manganese, cobalt and nickel are processed they turn into a substance called a black mass…it’s about as bad as it sounds.
“In 10 to 15 years when there
are large numbers of them
(electric car batteries)
coming to the end of
their life, it’s going
to be very important
that we have a
– Paul Anderson from the
University of Birmingham.
So, what can we do to continue creating energy-efficient vehicles and not dig up our earth to do it? We need to create a worldwide standard for recycling Li-ion batteries. This means that the recycling process needs to be considered at the beginning of each battery’s life. Engineers will need to focus on Li-ion battery designs that can later be disassembled and the materials can be recovered into a usable form.
At Regional Recycling, we can take Li-ion electric vehicle batteries if they are under 11 lbs. This is a part of our expanding battery recycling program. We also accept lead-acid automotive batteries and household batteries. For more information about recycling your batteries with Regional Recycling follow this link.
The province of BC is taking strides to extend our green initiatives and offer more Li-ion battery options. This is part of the Gov of BC’s 5-year EPR action plan to include these batteries as a regulated product. For more information about this action plan follow this link, Extended Producer Responsibility Five-Year Action Plan 2021-2026.
During the fall of this year, we are seeing recycling leaders hold conferences, sign LOIs and continue talks to create a recycling standard for the production and recycling of Li-ion batteries. This is a step in the right direction and we are getting closer to a solution with each month that passes. While we may not all be flying to the stars, we must make strides to preserve our precious planet.