Cosmos Briefing: The Circular Economy

What is the circular economy, and how can it be achieved? As experts discuss the topic, a new report shows that Australia could make money off recycling lithium-ion batteries.

The COSMOS Briefing session was hosted by the Royal Institution of Australia’s lead scientist, Alan Duffy, with guest speakers Professor Veena Sahajwalla from the University of New South Wales, and Professor Thomas Maschmeyer from the University of Sydney.

The lithium-ion battery recycling industry could be worth up to $3.1 billion, according to a CSIRO report.

Released on Monday, the report surveyed over 30 stakeholders across the battery chain, as well as examining the scientific literature on the topic.

“The demand for lithium-ion batteries is increasing globally, fuelled by the increasing electrification of transport and the renewable energy generation storage sector,” says Dr Anand Bhatt, lead author on the report.

“This growth is leading to an emerging problem of end-of-life waste management.”

Australia currently recycles only 10% of lithium-ion battery waste – compared to 98% of lead-acid batteries.

If dealt with correctly, 95% of materials in lithium-ion batteries could be reused in batteries or other resources. These resources are worth between $603 million and $3.1 billion.

Reusing these materials properly would also be safer and more environmentally conscious, reducing the risk of fires and contamination from lithium waste.

The report identified 18 opportunities to increase lithium-ion battery recycling nationally, as well as a few key areas for improvement. These areas include disparate regulations in states and territories, few collection facilities for consumers of batteries, a lack of labelling and standardization, and safety and fire risk from storing and transporting the batteries.

According to the report, improving the sector will need work from government, industry and research institutions.

The report has been prepared for the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre.

For more information on the circular economy, listen to our COSMOS Briefing session below.

Links to resources mentioned in the Briefing can be found here:

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