The Australian-led solution to the massive lithium-ion battery waste problem

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  • Only 2% of Australia’s annual 3300 tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste is recycled.
  • This waste is growing by 20% a year and could hit 100,000 tonnes by 2036.
  • If recycled, 95 per cent of components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.

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.

Each year Australia creates a 3300 tonne mini-mountain of lithium-ion battery waste.

And only 2% of it is recycled. The majority of the battery waste is shipped overseas, and what remains goes to landfill.

Australia’s peak science organisation, the CSIRO, has just released a study, Lithium battery recycling in Australia, showing that Australia’s lithium-ion battery waste is increasing by 20% each year as demand for mobile electronics and electric cars keeps growing.

The report says 95% of components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.

CSIRO research is supporting a push for recycling, with work 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.

“As a world leader in the adoption of solar and battery systems, we must responsibly manage our use of lithium-ion technology in support of our clean energy future; CSIRO has set out a pathway to do this,” says CSIRO battery research leader Dr Anand Bhatt.

“The value for Australia is three-fold. We can draw additional value from existing materials, minimise impact on our environment, and also catalyse a new industry in lithium-ion re-use/recycling.”

Dr Bhatt and his team are working with industry to develop processes to transition to domestic recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

“The development of processes to effectively and efficiently recycle these batteries can generate a new industry in Australia. Further, effective recycling of lithium batteries can offset the current concerns around lithium security,” he says.

Australian Battery Recycling Initiative CEO Libby Chaplin says the report comes at a critical time.

“Currently we are racing towards a world where lithium batteries are a very big part of our energy supply, yet we have some real work to do to ensure we are able to recycle the end product once it has reached its use by date,” she says.

“The CSIRO report provides critical information at an opportune time given the discussions around how to shape a product stewardship scheme for the energy storage sector.”

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