A serious waste problem
As demand grows for energy storage and batteries, so too does the amount of lithium-ion battery waste. The following statistics paint a picture of the challenge:
- only 10 per cent of Australia's lithium-ion battery waste was recycled in 2021, compared with 99 per cent of lead acid battery waste
- lithium-ion battery waste is growing by 20 per cent per year and could exceed 136,000 tonnes by 2036
- if recycled, 95 per cent of lithium-ion battery components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.
Most of Australia's battery waste is shipped overseas. The waste that remains is left in landfill, leading to a potential fires and environmental contamination.
Two in-depth studies
In 2020, CSIRO and the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre published the most up-to-date, comprehensive review of the status of lithium-ion battery recycling industry in Australia. The 'Australian Landscape for Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling and Reuse in 2020' report was informed by CSIRO research and stakeholder surveys.
The report identified 18 opportunities for industry, government and research institutions to strengthen and grow Australia's domestic recycling capability, and generate new industries and employment opportunities. You can read more about the process in this Supercharging Australia’s lithium-ion battery recycling industry ECOS article.
The 2020 report built on a 2018 study 'Lithium battery recycling in Australia'. This report addressed growing demand for lithium-ion technology, currently used in vast quantities in electronic and household devices. The 2018 report says that Australia could become a world leader in the re-use and recycling of lithium-ion batteries.
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 stabilise global lithium supplies to meet consumer demand.
Multi-disciplinary energy storage expertise
CSIRO research is supporting lithium-ion battery 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 working 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.
Download the reports