Original article published in The Minerals Manhattan Project
July 27, 2020 – Emily Hersh
As the world moves towards an electric vehicle future, a great deal of attention has been given to the effects of mining and the environmental impact of producing batteries. One major area of attention is what happens to these batteries at the end of life, and how to keep them from being thrown into the trash.
But what does recycling mean, and is it actually as environmentally friendly as we’d all like it to be?
Tim Johnston, the Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Li-Cycle, joins the Minerals Manhattan Project to walk us through what it means to recycle a battery.
We talk about traditional and newer battery recycling processes and compare their waste streams, carbon emissions, and products they produce.
Tim explains how a battery comes apart into plastic, metals, and “black matter” – the active material in the battery – and what different recycling streams can be used to produce new products.
Emily drills Tim on the economics of each step of the recycling process, from the plastics to the metals through the black mass active material for manufacturing new batteries. Tim describes the hydro-metallurgical process used by Li-Cycle to recover lithium, nickel, cobalt, and graphite ready to re-enter battery and other industrial processes.