Australia seeks to develop lithium capacity


National science body investigates economics of recycling and reuse of batteries. Geetanjali Rangnekar reports.


Discarded lithium batteries represent environmental and health hazards.
Discarded lithium batteries represent environmental and health hazards.
aquatarkus / Getty Images

Scientists at Australia’s national science body, the CSIRO, have released a report that could lay the groundwork for an environmentally and economically beneficial on-shore lithium ion battery (LIB) recycling facility, making Australia a world leader in the field.

The report is the work of the CSIRO’s manufacturing, energy, and land and water divisions. Coming at a time when demand for the batteries is booming, it highlights the urgent need for concerted collaboration between researchers, government agencies and industry partners to develop sustainable solutions to combat the burgeoning issue of LIB waste.

The report noted that the Australian LIB waste problem is growing at an alarming rate of 20% per year. Only 2% of the mammoth 3000 tonnes of waste is collected and sent overseas for recycling, costing the Australian economy millions of dollars.

The on-shore collection and recycling of the lithium battery components could mean substantial savings and allow the reuse of materials such as cobalt, lithium and graphite. This would also circumvent the risk of fire, hazards to human health and ecological pollution which come from placing LIB waste into landfill.

Anand Bhatt, one of the authors of the report, is working with his team at CSIRO’s battery laboratory to investigate safe and efficient ways to recover LIB components. The CSIRO is also looking into developing alternative LIB materials, starting awareness campaigns aimed at informing consumers about end-of-life LIB collection sites, and supporting the circular economy around LIB reuse and recycling.

The full report can be found here.

  1. https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/EF/Areas/Energy-storage/Battery-recycling
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