New sod for recycled alkaline batteries

New research has taken place testing the capabilities of micro-nutrients derived from recycled alkaline batteries.

Perth-based battery developer, Lithium Australia, has trialled a short duration glasshouse testing of fertilisers with added micro-nutrients derived from recycled alkaline batteries.

The company reported in its findings that plant uptake of zinc and manganese was in line with expectations for oxide materials.

According to the ABRI (Australian Battery Recycling Initiative), almost 100 per cent of alkaline battery materials can be recycled and there is a well-established infrastructure for collection and recycling.

“Our use of batteries is growing exponentially as new product types emerge,” the ABRI stated.

“While once we relied on grid based electricity and fossil fuels, we are increasingly turning to batteries to power our every day lives.”

Lithium Australia stated that more than 6000 tonnes of alkaline batteries are consumed nationally each year.

In 2019, Australia’s Battery Stewardship Council estimated that, at the end of their useful life, 97 per cent of those batteries were disposed of in municipal waste streams and reported to landfill.

Lithium Australia is aiming to supply ethically and sustainably sourced materials to the battery industry worldwide. 

As part of its commitment to a circular battery economy, the company recently assessed the use of zinc and manganese recovered from recycled alkaline batteries as micro-nutrient supplements in fertilisers.

The mixed metal dusts used in the recent lithium trial came from the company’s Envirostream Australia spent battery recycling facility in Victoria.

Major Australian organisations including Bunnings, Officeworks and Cleanaway are pick up points for Lithium Australia to sort and shred materials, and then separate cathode and anode active compounds at the battery recycling facility.

In the lithium trials, glasshouse pots were used to assess fertilisers against control samples, including traditional fertilisers.

The company told investors that the results were encouraging enough for the company to commit to the next stage of assessment.

Metal uptake occurred across the samples, with uptake from recycled materials slower in comparison to fertiliser-grade sulphate products.

Larger scale field trials are now being planned to assess alkaline mixed metal dust performance against conventional treatments.

Lithium Australia MD Adrian Griffin said recycling all the metals within spent batteries is something that’s rarely done effectively, which is why it remains a target for the company.

“We have not limited ourselves to recycling only lithium-ion batteries but, rather, have included alkaline batteries in a bid to eliminate all such items from landfill,” he said.

“We’re cognisant of the environmental implications of burying such ‘waste’ and encourage all consumers to join us in recycling every spent battery for the benefit of the environment now for the sake of the future.”

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