We tend to get excited when we hear news about advancements in the lithium-ion battery industry. One of the more recent pieces of good news involves Germany's Accurec, a company that has taken the necessary steps to retool its operations to improve lithium-ion battery recycling. They should be ready to start accepting incoming batteries sometime in the spring of 2023.
The fact that Accurec is some 26 years old is notable. The company has been recycling batteries for quite some time. But recently, they developed a process that will enable it to recover more lithium from nearly any battery that contains it. It is a big step forward as the world works to ensure it can produce enough lithium to keep up with demand.
Mostly Household Batteries
Accurec's Krefeld plant will be capable of accepting all sorts of lithium batteries once it's up and running. They will take electric car batteries, e-bike batteries, laptop and other electronic device batteries, and household batteries. Initially, most of their focus will be on the household category.
Household batteries are the batteries we all use to power our handheld devices. We are talking D, C, AAA, and AA batteries. Even 9V lithium-ion rechargeable batteries will be in play. The amazing thing is that Accurec expects to be able to recycle upwards of 4,000 tons of batteries every year. The company says they can currently recover about 50% of lithium content using their current process. But when the new process is implemented in the spring, they expect an 80% recovery rate
That is exciting enough, but it gets better. Accurec also says that the purity of the lithium they recover is 98% or better. If you know anything about lithium-ion battery production, lithium purity matters a lot. The purer the lithium, the better the battery.
We Need More of This
At Pale Blue Earth, we are convinced that lithium-ion consumer batteries are here to stay. They will eventually supplant alkaline batteries as the number one consumer choice. We need more recycling efforts similar to what Accurec is doing in Germany. We need more of it here in the U.S and in other regions and countries as well.
USB-C rechargeable batteries are a better choice than alkaline batteries because they can be charged 1,000+ times. That ultimately means fewer batteries tossed into garbage cans and eventually landfills. But wouldn't it be better to avoid throwing batteries away altogether?
Not throwing spent batteries away only gives us one other option: recycling them. Combining 1,000+ charges with viable lithium recovery creates the perfect storm that will allow lithium-ion batteries to further displace millions (and billions) of alkaline batteries. That is what we are shooting for here at Pale Blue Earth.
Lithium Supplies Aren't Endless
The desire to recycle lithium isn't just about reducing extraction impact and preserving landfill space for materials that can't be recovered. It is also a matter of necessity. The fact is that lithium supplies aren't endless. Like just about every resource on the Earth, lithium is a limited resource. We need to recover as much of it as possible in order to reduce the demand for newly produced lithium.
We're thrilled to learn that Accurec will be able to recycle upwards of 4,000 tons of lithium-ion batteries annually in their retooled Krefeld facility. We are equally thrilled that competitors like BASF and Umicore are working on their own lithium recovery capabilities. Perhaps Accurec will license or sell their extraction process to other faciltities around the world.
The more lithium we can recover from household batteries, the easier it will be to convince consumers to choose them over alkaline batteries. We would love nothing more than to see that happen.