Lithium-ion batteries are in electronic devices. It should be recycled than put in trash or municipal bins. However, the recycling of Lithium-ion batteries should be with battery electronics certified recycler.

Electric vehicles are the rage and are the best way of cleaning energy revolution. Electric vehicles come with lithium-ion batteries, and recycling the batteries is complicated. The key takeaway is that lithium-ion batteries need less recycling than their counterparts in lead acid. Improving the recycling process of lithium-ion batteries ensures protecting the environment and saving money.

Why Lithium-ion battery recycling?

Lithium-ion battery recycling involves protecting the environment and recovering materials.

  • Recycling batteries are good for the environment. Besides the monetary benefits, the battery parts are valuable. Recycling batteries is the same as recycling plastics. However, the metals are toxic and harm the water supply or the natural environment in a landfill.
  • There are useful and valuable materials such as iron, cobalt, nickel, etc in lithium-ion batteries. These nickel and cobalt, these metals are environmentally and financially costly to process and mine these materials. Thus reclaiming and using them is useful. Rare metals such as cobalt are not easy to mine and it requires spending more money on their extraction.

The technologies of lithium-ion are the fastest segment growing considering the storage options of energy. The acceleration is more with the fast-growing market of electric vehicles. The current process of recycling is complex. Today, lithium-ion battery recycling undergoes a shredding process. In this process, the battery shreds into small pieces and is known as a black mass. The black mass undergoes processing and valuable metals such as nickel and cobalt is into extraction. This process lowers the component's value after extraction and is an energy-intensive process.

Why lithium-ion batteries are difficult to recycle?

Lithium-ion batteries are gaining popularity in the electronics market and their rechargeable qualities are on new heights. It is scaling into the EV market and is also the prime storage option for solar and wind projects.

The difficulty is in integrating and harnessing the technology while considering recycling the battery. Lithium-ion batteries are hazardous waste material. It is because of their chemical composition that the recycling of the batteries is tough. At the same time, the lithium-ion resale value is also low as battery components. Thus, the incentive for investing in the process of recycling is low.

Most batteries undergoing recycling experience high-temperature for the extraction and melting process. The process is the same as in the mining industry. However, the operations are in large commercial facilities and are energy intensive. The plant building and operation are expensive, and there is a need for sophisticated pieces of equipment to cure harmful emissions generations by the smelting process. However, after all this process, the plants are unable to recover all the valuable materials from the battery.
Until now, improving the recycling of lithium-ion batteries is an effort concentrating on small academic research groups that work independently. However, things are beginning to change. Besides, the lithium-ion batteries from aging electric vehicles and portable electronics will be soon reaching for recycling. Start-up companies are working on battery recycling technology, and many are studying the problem. Thus, there is an expansion in the post-docs and graduate students to work on battery recycling. Adding to this, manufacturing industries and other experts on recycling are also forming multifaceted, large collaborations to tackle this lithium-ion battery recycling impending problem.
The structure of the battery also complicates the efforts of recycling. Li-ion batteries are complex and compact devices, coming in various shapes and sizes. Their design is not for disassembling. Each cell has an anode, cathode, electrolyte, and separator.

Benefits of lithium-ion battery recycling

  • Environmentalists and battery specialists give several reasons to consider lithium-ion batteries for recycling. They claim that battery materials can be into use in making new batteries. Thus the manufacturing costs may be low. Right now, the materials cost half the cost of the battery. The expensive components are nickel and cobalt, and the prices are around $12600 and $27500 per metric ton. However, in the 2019 first quarter months, the price of cobalt was $90,000 per metric ton.
  • The Li-ion batteries have metal concentrations with lithium and manganese that are in surplus concentrations than the natural ones. Thus, the batteries are enriched ores, and if the metals from the used batteries are available during recovery, it will be economical. Once the recycling brings large-scale recovery of metals, the battery price can drop, and the electric vehicles can become cost-effective.
  • Above all is the potential economic benefit. Lithium-ion battery recycling prevents materials from going into landfills. The batteries have manganese, nickel, cobalt, and other metals leaking from the batteries' casing. It contaminates the groundwater and the soil, besides threatening human health and the ecosystems.