How can we best address Australia's annual 3,300 tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste?

The challenge

A serious waste problem

As the demand for energy storage systems and batteries grows, so too does the amount of lithium-ion battery waste. The following statistics paint a picture of the challenge:

  • Only 2 per cent of Australia’s annual 3,300 tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste is recycled.
  • This waste is growing by 20 per cent per year and could exceed 100,000 tonnes by 2036.
  • If recycled, 95 per cent of components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.
  • By comparison, of the 150,000 tonnes of lead-acid batteries sold in 2010, 98 per cent were recycled.
  • The majority of Australia’s battery waste is shipped overseas, and the waste that remains left in landfill, leading to a potential fires and environmental contamination.

Our response

An in-depth study

A new report 'Lithium battery recycling in Australia' addresses growing demand for lithium-ion technology, currently used in vast quantities in electronic and household devices.The report says that Australia could become a world leader in the re-use and recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

Research Leader Dr Anand Bhatt in CSIRO's battery laboratory.

Low battery recycling rates can be overcome through better understanding of the importance of recycling, improved collection processes, and by implementing ways to efficiently recycle materials.

The report also says that an effective recycling industry could also stabilise global lithium supplies to meet consumer demand.

The results

Multi-disciplinary energy storage expertise

CSIRO research is supporting recycling efforts, with research underway on processes for recovery of metals and materials, development of new battery materials, and support for the circular economy around battery reuse and recycling.

Across CSIRO's Energy, Manufacturing, and Land and Water groups, researchers are with industry to develop processes that can support the transition to domestic recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

The report also found that research, government and industry must work closely to develop standards and best-practice solutions to this issue.

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