Why is Recycling Li-ion Batteries Important?

In recent years, lithium-ion batteries have been widely used in electric vehicles, electronic information, energy storage and other fields due to their high energy density, high voltage, good cycle performance, long life, low self-discharge, and environmentally friendly advantages.The extensive use of lithium-ion batteries has promoted the use of cleaner and environmentally friendly electrical energy in transportation, electronic information and other fields, and has made great contributions to improving the global ecological environment.

Solving the environmental protection of batteries and the problems they cause are the requirements of green development.Traditional batteries have no specific measures due to the shallow awareness of recycling among the people.This will cause great pollution.However, the phosphoric acid battery is non-polluting to the environment. The battery does not contain any heavy metals and rare metals that are harmful to the environment. It is certified by SGS as non-toxic and non-polluting, and complies with European ROHS regulations.Lithium iron phosphate batteries are pollution-free in the production and use process, and they are nothing short of “green” batteries.

Regarding the recovery of lithium iron phosphate batteries, it can be seen from its failure mechanism that the degree of decline in the performance of the negative electrode graphite is greater than that of the positive electrode LiFePO4 material, while the price of the negative electrode graphite material is relatively low and the amount used is relatively small. Therefore, the recycling and reuse of graphite materials is economical, so there is less research in this regard.Therefore, the same collection of cathode materials in the whole house is the focus. At present, industrial wet recovery by chemical precipitation is an important method for recycling waste batteries, and the most economically valuable Li and Fe are obtained and then recycled as chemical raw materials.In addition, high-temperature solid-phase repair and regeneration technology, as well as the leaching technology of Thiobacterium ferrous oxide, are also popular in research.

*Why is recycling Li-ion batteries important?

1.Protecting natural resources

The reuse and recycling of lithium-ion batteries helps protect natural resources by reducing the demand for raw materials and reducing the energy and pollution associated with the manufacture of new products. Lithium-ion batteries contain some materials, such as cobalt and lithium, which are considered key minerals and require energy to be mined and manufactured. When the battery is thrown away, we will completely lose these resources—they can never be restored.

2.Reduce pollution

Recycling batteries can avoid air and water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

3.Safer electricity use

It can also prevent the battery from being sent to facilities without safety management equipment and places that may become fire hazards.

In all, by reusing, donating, and recycling products containing lithium-ion batteries, you can reduce the environmental impact of electronic products at the end of their service life.

*How can I identify what products have Li-ion batteries in them?

The battery or device may list its chemistry on the battery’s case, instruction manuals, or product markings. There may also be symbols or icons that state the chemistry or the chasing arrow symbol with the words “Li-ion” below it.

*What materials are in Li-ion batteries?

The use of a large number of lithium-ion batteries will inevitably bring a large number of waste lithium-ion batteries. On the one hand, waste lithium-ion batteries contain a large number of valuable components (copper, aluminum, lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese), on the other hand, they contain a large number of pollutant substances (methyl carbonate, ethyl carbonate, lithium hexafluorophosphate). Therefore, from the perspective of environmental protection and resource recovery, the efficient recycling and utilization technology of valuable components of waste lithium-ion batteries is of great and far-reaching significance to solve global resource and environmental problems.

*Benefits of Recycling Lithium Batteries

Battery experts and environmentalists have given a long list of reasons for recycling lithium-ion batteries.

1.Green Development

Since lithium mining emits a lot of carbon dioxide, the use of lithium and other metals in recycled batteries is a more environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative.

2.The recycled materials can be used to make new batteries, reducing manufacturing costs.

Currently, these materials account for more than half of the cost of batteries. The prices of the two cathode metals-cobalt and nickel, the most expensive components-have fluctuated sharply in recent years. The current market prices of cobalt and nickel are approximately US227,500 per metric ton and US112,600 per metric ton, respectively. In many types of lithium-ion batteries, the concentration of these metals, as well as lithium and manganese, exceeds the concentration in natural ores, making waste batteries similar to highly enriched ores. If these metals can be recycled on a large scale from waste batteries and are more economical than from natural ores, then the price of batteries and electric vehicles should fall.

3.Recycling can also reduce the amount of materials entering landfills.

Experts say that cobalt, nickel, manganese and other metals found in batteries can easily leak from the battery housing, polluting soil and groundwater, threatening ecosystems and human health. The same is true of the solution of lithium fluoride salt (usually LiPF6) in the organic solvent used in the battery electrolyte.

Lithium batteries will have a negative impact on the environment not only at the end of their life, but also long before they are manufactured.

More recycling means less raw material mining and less related environmental hazards.  Reducing dependence on the mining of battery materials can also slow down the consumption of these raw materials.Due to the rapid development of lithium batteries, battery manufacturing may reduce global cobalt reserves by more than 10% in the next 20-30 years.

  1. Recycling lithium batteries can improve the safety of the supply chain

50% of the world’s cobalt production comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Recycling lithium batteries or preparing cathodes with lower cobalt concentrations for lithium batteries can help reduce dependence on these countries and improve the safety of the supply chain.

*Challenges of Recycling Lithium Battery

1.The sharp fluctuations in the prices of lithium battery raw materials have brought uncertainty to the recycling economy.

If the price of cobalt drops, it will be difficult for recycled cobalt to compete with mined cobalt in price, and manufacturers will choose mined materials instead of recycling, forcing recyclers to go out of business.It is cheaper to mine most of the metals found in lithium-ion batteries than to recycle them.Perhaps ironically, cheap lithium mining is one of the many reasons why we can invest heavily in batteries.Unfortunately, if we make cheap lithium batteries that are not recycled, we will eventually become landfills full of electronic waste.

2.The complex chemical composition of lithium batteries increases the difficulty of recycling.

Since Sony commercialized lithium-ion batteries in the early 1990s, researchers have continuously adjusted the composition of the cathode to reduce the cost of lithium batteries, increase battery capacity, extend battery life, reduce charging time, and so on.For example, the NMC and LCO batteries we are now familiar with, although they are all lithium batteries, they are composed of different metal compounds. Recyclers must face a variety of materials, so recycling costs have increased.In addition, due to the different composition ratios of electrodes and electrolytes, composition structures and shapes of lithium batteries of different lithium battery manufacturers, the lithium battery recovery process is more complicated and the recovery cost is higher.

3.Lithium battery recycling efficiency needs to be improved

Current recovery methods are not complex enough to extract most of the key reusable metals in a more cost-effective way than mining.