How Recycled Consumer Batteries Could Some Day Power a Car

battery types

Residents of New York's Broome County were invited to participate in a lithium-ion battery recycling event held in Endwell over the course of a single weekend in mid-August. 

Event organizers were looking for lithium-ion AA and AAA batteries that could someday be used to power a car. They were looking for cell phone, laptop, and tablet batteries. Virtually any consumer lithium-ion battery was up for grabs. What happened to all the batteries they collected? They were recycled by a company known as Redwood Materials.

Two Reasons for Recycling

We are big proponents of recycling in general, and of course, especially lithium-ion batteries. We encourage customers who buy our USB-C rechargeables in any form factor to take them to a collection center for recycling once they reach end-of-life. There are two reasons for this. Both shed some light on the recycling event held in upstate New York.

The first reason is to keep batteries out of landfills. It doesn't make sense to throw them in the ground (risking a variety of downstream problems) when many of the materials they contain can be recovered and reused.

The second reason to recycle lithium-ion batteries is to reduce our collective need to continue mining natural materials to make new ones. The more we recycle, the less mining will be necessary. That takes us to Redwood Materials and the reason they want used lithium-ion batteries.

Building New Car Batteries

The automotive industry has been working on a viable electric car for several decades. We are now extremely close to having a technology that could ultimately replace the internal combustion engine. The only task remaining is perfecting the electric car battery.

Batteries for electric vehicles are expensive. The materials used to make them are expensive, too. Redwood recycles lithium-ion batteries from flashlights, electric toothbrushes, etc. and uses those materials to make car batteries. In fact,  a $3.5 billion plant in Nevada is in the works to do just that.

The recycling event in Broome County, NY was just one of many they plan for the East Coast this year. Not only does the company want to recycle consumer batteries, but they also want to make people aware of the fact that all those unused batteries sitting in their junk drawers and closets can be put to better use.

It All Adds up

A handful of USB-C AAA batteries wouldn't mean much on their own in the grand scheme of things. But what if one million people recycled just 10 batteries. Now Redwood and other companies have ten million batteries to work with.

The secret to recycling is the cumulative potential impact of many small actions. In other words, all those batteries add up to a much larger mass. Five here, another seven there – they all add up. That's why we make a point of reminding people of the millions of batteries that end up in landfills every year.

We assume that most people are like us in rooting for the electric car to replace internal combustion vehicles. To do that, we need more and better batteries. You can contribute by recycling your end-of-life lithium-ion batteries. Who knows? They could eventually be used to power a car.