Recycling Services Extended to Lithium Batteries

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Several recycling plants are now collecting and recycling a new wave of batteries, which includes lithium ion (Li-ion) and nickel metal hydride (NiMH) models that are optimized for hybrid and electric cars.

Earlier this month, Toxco received a $9.5 million grant to extend its battery recycling services at an Ohio plant to cover lithium batteries. The plant currently recycles lead acid, alkaline manganese and nickel cadmium rechargeable batteries.

Photo: Flickr/Mike Hussein

Some new plants are developing systems to recycle lithium ion and nickel metal hydride batteries that are often used in hybrid cars and electronics. Photo: Flickr/Mike Hussein

Lithium ion batteries are currently found in consumer electronics, such as cell phones. They have several advantages in automobiles over other types of rechargeable batteries, including having:

  • A lighter weight
  • A lower discharge rate
  • No toxic material, such as lead and sulphuric acid

Currently, manufacturers are using nickel metal hydride batteries for hybrids and electronics. But the industry is expected to shift toward lithium soon, creating a need for recycling technology for both types of batteries.

In Japan, a proposed plant should open in 2011 that will be able to remove lithium from the battery. While these batteries are typically deemed landfill-safe because they contain only trace amounts of lithium, they also contain valuable metals like copper, cobalt, iron and nickel that can be reprocessed for new batteries.

Auto batteries are not the only area in which companies are switching to less-toxic battery options. Due to concerns over their toxicity and corresponding laws, lead-acid batteries have the largest recycling rate of any consumer product at more than 95 percent.

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Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.
Trey Granger

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