The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has authorised the Battery Stewardship Council to establish and operate a levy scheme to manage the recycling of all types of expired batteries.
Envirostream, an owned subsidiary of Lithium Australia has announced that it expects to begin regular recycling of end-of-life battery packs from electric vehicles in coming weeks.
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.”
The International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organisation has published two patent applications from Lithium Australia.
The applications detail Lithium Australia’s lithium phosphate recovery process, which extracts the material from lithium-bearing silicates and solutions.
According to a Lithium Australia statement, the patents seek to protect intellectual property derived from the company’s research and development activities.
“Intellectual property is managed by way of formal patent processes to retain ‘know-how’ as trade secrets, with the support of specialist legal practitioners,” the statement reads.
Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin said the technology improves the sustainability of, and reduces the environmental impacts associated with, the manufacture, use and disposal of lithium-ion batteries.
“Importantly, these technologies can facilitate vertical integration within the battery supply chain, potentially reducing the number of process steps involved, and lowering costs for consumers,” Mr Griffin said.
“The ability to integrate metal recovery from lithium-ion batteries and regenerate cathode materials represents a major advance for the battery industry as a whole.”
Lithium Australia has invested a further $100,000 in Envirostream Australia, increasing its equity from 18.9 to 23.9 per cent.
According to a Lithium Australia statement, the investment significantly enhances the company’s exposure to the process of collecting and separating spent lithium-ion batteries, a fundamental precursor to battery chemical recycling.
“Lithium Australia has already, at a laboratory scale, successfully recovered metals from separated batteries, used the lithium retrieved to regenerate cathode materials and, from those materials, manufactured coin-cell lithium-ion batteries,” the statement reads.
Lithium Australia Managing Director Arian Griffin said Envirostream is the only company in Australia with the integrated capacity to collect, sort, shred and separate all the components of lithium-ion batteries.
“Lithium Australia’s expanded equity in Envirostream, and acceleration of its research and development program, both anticipate the restructuring of the recycling business to best amalgamate the capabilities of both Lithium Australia and Envirostream,” Mr Griffin said.
“Envirostream’s infrastructure is essential to developing an environmentally responsible solution to the mounting problems spent lithium-ion batteries represent.”
Mr Griffin said by recycling spent lithium-ion batteries, Lithium Australia hopes to meet the ethical, social and governance standards that Australian’s have come to expect.
“The world’s capacity to deal with climate change is also bolstered by the resulting improvements in resource sustainability and reductions in the environmental footprint of portable power,” Mr Griffin said.
“Our further investment in recycling in general, and Envirostream in particular, therefore represents a tremendous opportunity for the company.”
Lithium Australia has developed a process that recovers metals from spent lithium-ion batteries (LIB), with nickel and cobalt recoveries estimated at 90 per cent.
Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin said establishing a supply stream from recycled batteries would help facilitate lithium-ion sustainability, and reduce the number of batteries sent to landfill.
“Lithium Australia’s ability to recover and refine the lithium in spent LIBs puts it in a unique position, since few current commercial recycling processes do this, rather, the
lithium is generally discharged to flue gas or slag during smelting processes,” Mr Griffin said.
“Lithium Australia’s process is based on lower heat inputs and retention of the lithium, which is recovered hydrometallurgically.”
Mr Griffin said recoveries of roughly 85 per cent had also been achieved in test work with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.
According to a Lithium Australia statement, the company aim to produce high-purity lithium phosphate as a precursor for the production of cathode materials.
“This will be accomplished using the company’s proprietary lithium phosphate refining process,” the statement reads.
“Commercial investigation by Lithium Australia also found the potential to develop a nickel/cobalt concentrate as an alternate feed source for conventional refining.”
Mr Griffin said successfully recovering a precursor of high purity for the production of new LIBs, from material otherwise destined for landfill, is a huge step forwards for the battery industry.
“Lithium Australia, together with its partner Envirostream Australia, is investigating the commercial potential of this breakthrough,” Mr Griffin said.
Right now we’re in discussion with consumers of lithium, nickel and cobalt – both within Australia and overseas – and we see huge potential for a local battery recycling industry.”
Lithium Australia has produced lithium-ion (Li-ION) battery material and batteries from mine waste using its SiLeach process.
Subsidiary Very Small Particle Company (VSPC) carried out the testing at its laboratory and pilot plant in Brisbane, Queensland.
Tri-lithium phosphate from mine waste was converted to lithium-iron-phosphate cathode material that was categorised as being of similar quality to standard battery cathode powder.
The SiLeach process eliminates the need for roasting during the lithium extraction process. Roasting involves lithium ore being heated on an industrial scale prior to leaching and is a costly, time consuming and environmentally impactful process.
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In contrast to this, SiLeach allows the company to produce battery-grade lithium material from non-brine mineral resources at a cost similar to that of lithium-in-brine (LIB) producers, but without the environmental risks and high costs associated with roasting and evaporation ponds.
SiLeach can recover these battery-grade material from rejected mine waste including low-grade lepidolite mica feedstock.
Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin highlighted its ability to simplify the lithium extraction process.
“The most notable aspect of this achievement is its simplicity, and ability to streamline the processes and cost required to produce LIB cathode materials,” he said.
“The broader application to lithium brine exploitation provides enormous potential for that part of the lithium industry by removing the cost intensive route to lithium hydroxide — the direct use of lithium phosphate to produce cathode powders may do that.”
Lithium Australia has announced it will begin manufacturing and recycling advanced battery materials at its research and development lab, VSPC, in Brisbane.
The company aims to close the loop in the energy-metals cycle and is seeking to establish a vertically integrated lithium processing business.
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It aims to improve the lithium-ion battery supply chain with the company’s SiLeach lithium extraction process, superior cathode production, and enhanced recycling techniques for battery materials.
VSPC’s pilot production facilities have been fully re-commissioned, allowing the company to assemble and test lithium-ion coin and pouch cells.
Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said the company intended to turn VSPC into a global facility for manufacturing advanced cathode materials as well as for battery recycling.
“VSPC gives Lithium Australia the opportunity to manufacture the world’s most advanced cathode materials – at the high-margin end of the battery metals market. Importantly, VSPC will also allow us to capitalise on waste batteries as a feed source,” he said.
“We anticipate immense pressure on the supply of energy metals such as lithium and cobalt in the near future. Battery recycling not only supports sustainability but may also, ultimately, prove the cheapest source of those energy metals materials in years to come.
“The ability to produce cathode powders from these materials, while also controlling particle size, is clearly advantageous. It is an integral part of our sustainable and ethical supply policy,” Mr Griffin said.