Author Topic: Are Li-Ion Batteries Profitable To Recycle?  (Read 2244 times)

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Offline SgtRock

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Are Li-Ion Batteries Profitable To Recycle?
« on: October 22, 2012, 03:04:12 am »
Greetings EEVBees:

--Please see below link for an article venturing the opinion that Advanced Li-Ion Batteries, in the future will likely never be recycled in any appreciable amounts, any more than they are right now. Despite the statement that Li-Ion Batteries are easily recycled and can be simply ground up and reprocessed, a careful look at the process would seem to indicate for now anyway, it is far from simple.

"Given the extremely high metal value of used cobalt-based lithium batteries it seems strange that only one company in the world, Unicore of Belgium, has bothered to develop a recycling process. When you take the time to read and digest Unicore's process description, however, the reason becomes obvious. Recycling lithium-ion batteries is an incredibly complex and expensive undertaking that includes:
    Collection and reception of batteries;
    Burning of flammable electrolytes;
    Neutralization of hazardous internal chemistry;
    Smelting of metallic components;
    Refining & purification of recovered high value metals; and
    Disposal of non-recoverable waste metals like lithium and aluminum.
The process is economic when a ton of batteries contains up to 600 pounds of recoverable cobalt that's worth $40 a pound. The instant you take the cobalt out of the equation, the process becomes hopelessly uneconomic. Products that cannot be economically recycled can only end up in one place, your friendly neighborhood landfill.
Battery Chemistry    Metal Value Per Ton
Lithium cobalt oxide    $25,000
Lead acid                    $1,400
Lithium iron phosphate $400
Lithium manganese    $300"
--Now, while you would think that the aluminum would be recoverable, but according to Unicore it is not. If you know a company that can make a profit separating and aluminum/lithium smelted mix with an admixture of other trace elements, there is a ready free source of this material at Unicore.

--Also the latest UNEP, United Nations Environment Programme, report shows that only 1% of lithium is recycled at present, see below PDF link.

--Something will no doubt change for the better and improve the present situation, my guess is that it will be battery chemistry.

"Math is hard."
Barbie Doll 1959 -

Best Regards
Clear Ether

Offline tom66

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Re: Are Li-Ion Batteries Profitable To Recycle?
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2012, 07:12:55 am »
Lithium-ion and polymer batteries are extremely flammable if mistreated.

However, they are fairly easy to neutralise using water. The batteries can be soaked in water, then crushed. This will cause them to vent (underwater), but very quickly extinguish. The lithium metal won't react with the water because it's already bonded to colbalt oxide. You then have a neutralised battery which can be recycled using normal metal recycling processes. It's quite possible the raw lithium colbalt oxide will be the desired output, not necessarily the individual metals.

I have heard this process is used in China for old mobile phone batteries... will have to find a source. I have accidentally vented a lipo myself, but water will make it stop venting very quickly.

In addition, one of the reasons you might not see so much recycling now is li-ion is still only used mainly in laptops and phones, and the batteries are still small enough now that recycling isn't particularly viable. If it becomes a more common automotive component, there will be greater demands for replacement batteries, and we are talking about much larger batteries, which will lower recycling costs. So it's not surprising that there is only one major company recycling them at present.

I do also notice the article is from "altenergystocks", which could have an interest in promoting a certain viewpoint.  :-X
« Last Edit: October 22, 2012, 07:16:58 am by tom66 »

Offline poptones

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Re: Are Li-Ion Batteries Profitable To Recycle?
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2012, 08:54:36 am »
You know, it's crazy how people risk their lives mining gold. If gold were not worth hundreds of dollars an ounce there would be no one to mine it. I guess it's a good thing for the gold miners there's only so much to go around and demand is going to increase the more people there are.

There's also video of a fire here in the US at a plant that recycles advanced rechargeables.

There's actually some concern that demand for lithium, if demand for rechargeable cars increases fast enough, there won't be enough being recycled to meet demand. Not because people will stupidly throw away a material with monetary value, but because they won't recycle them right away and instead use them another ten years as APUs for their homes.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2012, 08:57:22 am by poptones »

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