A new report from CSIRO, Australia’s government research organization, suggests that Australia could lead the world in the re-use and recycling of lithium-ion batteries, addressing this waste which is growing by 20% each year.
The report, Lithium battery recycling in Australia, addresses growing demand for lithium-ion technology, currently used in vast quantities in electronic and household devices. Only 2% of Australia’s annual 3,300 tonnes of Li-ion battery waste is currently recycled; with the current growth rate, this waste could exceed 100,000 tonnes by 2036.
Low battery recycling rates can be overcome through better understanding of the importance of recycling, improved collection processes, and by implementing ways to efficiently recycle materials, the report said. An effective recycling industry could also stabilize global lithium supplies to meet consumer demand.
If recycled, 95% of components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.
By comparison, of the 150,000 tonnes of lead-acid batteries sold in 2010, 98% were recycled.
The majority of Australia’s battery waste is shipped overseas, and the waste that remains left in landfill, leading to a potential fires, environmental contamination, and risk to human health.
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.
The report also found that research, government and industry must work closely to develop standards and best-practice solutions to this issue.