MEDIA RELEASE: Super-charging Australia’s lithium-ion battery recycling industry

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Thousands of tonnes of spent batteries, including lithium-ion batteries, are discarded annually, opening up opportunities for new recycling efforts. (Image: John Cameron via Unsplash)

Australia could have $3.1 billion industry in lithium-ion battery recycling, according to a new report prepared for the Future Battery Industries Co-operative Research Centre (FBICRC) by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

Register here for a webinar on the report and panel discussion with Libby Chaplin, CEO, Battery Stewardship Council and Andrew Mackenzie, MD, Envirostream Australia.

Informed by CSIRO research and stakeholder surveys, the Australian Landscape for Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling and Reuse in 2020 report is the most up-to-date, comprehensive review of the status of the lithium-ion battery recycling industry in Australia.

The report, released today, identifies 18 opportunities for industry, government, and research institutions to strengthen and grow Australia’s domestic recycling capability and generate new industries and employment opportunities.

“The conundrum we face in Australia is that we don’t currently have the volume of spent Lithium-Ion Batteries (LIBs) to justify significant investment, but we want to keep LIB’s out of landfill  to prevent environmental damage and retain those valuable battery materials in our economy,” Jo Staines, Enterprise Fellow at the University of Melbourne, and Program Lead for the FBICRC said.

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

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

While Australia recycles 98 per cent of lead acid batteries, only 10 per cent of our lithium-ion battery waste is recycled, according to research done in 2018 by CSIRO. This waste is growing by 20 per cent a year and could exceed 100,000 tonnes by 2036.

According to Jo Staines, lithium-ion batteries not only pose environmental and safety concerns if not dealt with properly, but they are also a missed economic opportunity.

“Lithium-ion batteries containing valuable battery metals and materials that should be recycled and reused.”

This lost value could translate from a $603 million to $3.1 billion opportunity. If recycled, 95 per cent of materials can be turned into new batteries or used in other high value industries.

CSIRO coordinated a stakeholder survey across all sectors of the battery value chain to identify the industry’s key barriers and challenges. More than 30 stakeholders, including manufacturers, importers and retailers, the battery recycling industry, policy and regulatory bodies, not-for-profits and researchers, provided their perspectives on future opportunities, including:

  • Extending National Product Stewardship for all batteries and assistance for State Governments to establish harmonised regulations.
  • Addressing the risks associated with transporting and storing batteries.
  • An increase in consumer collection facilities and improve locations to provide greater convenience to boost collection rates.
  • Greater research into developing end markets for the recovered battery materials for use in alternative industries.

These opportunities aim to grow Australia’s domestic recycling capability and generate new industries and employment opportunities.

The Future Battery Industries CRC brings together industry, researchers, governments and the community to ensure Australia plays a leading role in the global battery revolution.

CSIRO research supports recycling efforts, with projects looking into processes for recovery of metals and materials, development of new battery materials, and support for the battery circular economy.

You can read the full report here: https://fbicrc.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/CSIRO-Report-Australian-landscape-for-lithium-ion-battery-recycling-and-reuse-in-2020.pdf

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