Australian news, and some related international items

Lithium: design and recycling- a potential new industry for Australia

recycle-rare-earths-2Lithium: Australia needs to recycle and lease to be part of the boom, The Conversation,  Professor of Resource Futures, University of Technology Sydney Honorary Senior Research Fellow, The University of Queensland March 22, 2016 “….Australia has an opportunity to capitalise on the increasing global demand for lithium batteries by developing recycling systems and creating models for leasing the resource.

Lithium is the third element in the periodic table and the lightest classified as a metal. This makes it a good choice in battery applications needing lightweight energy storage. Lithium-ion batteries are now increasingly common in smartphones, electric vehicles and indeed Tesla powerwalls, the first of which was recently installed in Australia.

Because of this rising demand, Lithium is considered to be a “critical” mineral by many countries. Currently, global demand is over 32 thousand tonnes per year. This is predicted to rise to between 80 to 280 thousand tonnes by 2030……

In order to meet future demand, recycling of lithium will also need to rise significantly. A report by the International Resource Panel shows historical lithium recycling rates are at less than 1 percent. Current challenges to commercial recycling include limited volumes of waste batteries (as many are still in the useful phase of their life) and a lack of investment for piloting suitable recycling technologies.

However businesses and government must start planning now for collection and processing of this future waste stream, to ensure pathways are in place for reuse and recycling of what is a hazardous, yet valuable, waste. In particular, as lithium batteries rise past 50,000 tonnes per year in the waste stream by 2030, the need rises for developing efficient sorting systems to isolate these batteries and moderate the risk of fire.

Without the requisite infrastructure for local recycling, the valuable metals in batteries will not be recovered, yet environmental impacts rise both at home and abroad, as for other electronic waste.

Looking to the future, firms in Australia might also consider new business models such as leasing instead of selling lithium. This provides a mechanism for capturing value at multiple points along the supply chain (mining, battery manufacture, use, recycling) rather than relying on yesterday’s ‘dig-more sell-more’ model for national prosperity.

For example, by teaming up with battery manufacturers, Australian companies could be the first link in a green supply chain. This would involve mining lithium, processing it for use in batteries, leasing the lithium-in-batteries to users of power storage, then offering a collection chain for recycling……..

March 23, 2016 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy

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