A recent Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) reports reveals how Australia could lead the way in re-using and recycling lithium-ion batteries.
Australia creates 3,300 tonnes of Li-ion battery waste each year and this figure grows by 20% each year, with the potential to reach 100,000 tonnes by 2036. While the demand for Li-ion batteries is growing, we’re only recycling 2% of our discarded batteries. This is in sharp contrast to the recycling of 98% of the 150,000 lead-acid batteries sold in 2010.
It’s worth recycling Li-ion batteries, so how do we motivate people?
If lithium batteries are recycled, then 95% of their components can be turned back into batteries or used in industry.
The CSIRO says that if people have more understanding of the importance of recycling, as well as more access to better collection processes, then people will be more willing to recycle.
At present most of Australia’s lithium battery waste is shipped abroad, with the remaining mass heading to landfill, where it risks fires, environmental contamination and adverse human health effects.
CSIRO’s research is helping recycling promotion and efforts. There’s research into new ways of recovering materials, as well as into the development of new battery materials. There’s also work going on to improve the circular economy of battery re-usage and recycling.
Australia as a leader
With Australia’s pioneering of solar and solar batteries, the country also has to pioneer the responsible use and re-use of Li-ion if it’s to have a truly clean future. The CSIRO will help to forge this pathway because it’ll minimise the environmental impact, gain more value from existing materials and create an entirely new industry.
The CEO of Australian Battery Recycling Initiative (ABRI), Libby Chaplin, believes this CSIRO report came at an important time. Lithium batteries are assuming a bigger role in the world’s energy supply, so it’s vital that we can re-use and recycle the components and materials once each battery has reached the end of its life. It’s also vital for research, industry and governments to work together to develop solutions and standards for battery recycling.