Australia could lead the world in lithium-ion battery recycling, according to a new report.
The ‘Lithium battery recycling in Australia’ report says a new battery recycling industry could be possible to reuse and recycle Australia’s annual 3300 tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste.
It looks at the growing demand for lithium-ion technology, which is currently being used in large amounts of electronics and household devices.
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The report says an effective recycling industry could also stabilise global lithium supplies to meet consumer demand.
The majority of Australia’s battery waste is shipped overseas, with the rest being sent to landfill, creating fire and environmental risks. It is a growing waste, increasing by 20 per cent each year and could exceed 100,000 tonnes by 2036.
Only 2 per cent of Australia’s lithium-ion battery waste is currently recycled, however 95 per cent of the components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.
In comparison, of the 150,000 tonnes of lead-acid batteries sold in 2010, 98 per cent were recycled.
CSIRO research is supporting recycling efforts, with research underway on processes for recovery of metals and materials, development of new battery materials, and support for the circular economy around battery reuse and recycling.
CSIRO battery research leader Anand Bhatt said Australia must responsibly manage its use of lithium-ion technology in support of a clean energy future.
“The value for Australia is three-fold. We can draw additional value from existing materials, minimise impact on our environment, and also catalyse a new industry in lithium-ion re-use/recycling,” Dr Bhatt said.
Dr Bhatt and his team are working with industry to develop processes that can support the transition to domestic recycling of lithium-ion batteries.
“The development of processes to effectively and efficiently recycle these batteries can generate a new industry in Australia. Further, effective recycling of lithium batteries can offset the current concerns around lithium security,” Dr Bhatt said.
Australian Battery Recycling Initiative CEO Libby Chaplin said the report came at a critical time.
“Currently we are racing towards a world where lithium batteries are a very big part of our energy supply, yet we have some real work to do to ensure we are able to recycle the end product once it has reached its use by date,” Ms Chaplin said.
“The CSIRO report provides critical information at an opportune time given the discussions around how to shape a product stewardship scheme for the energy storage sector.”