Is it possible to recover 100% of metals when a battery is recycled?

Batteries are made up of metals, chemicals and other materials that may not seem reusable, however most things found in batteries can be recycled.

Despite this, Australians recycle less than 3 per cent of all purchased batteries, meaning more than 14,000 tons of batteries end up in landfill each year.

Battery recycling has many benefits, ranging from keeping harmful materials out of the environment to recovering non-renewable resources to reuse in new products.

Ecocycle’s Business Development Manager Daryl Moyle said it was possible to recycle 100% of metals found in batteries based on current technology.

“The more complex the battery chemistry gets, the more difficult it is to extract materials and the more technical the machinery has to be,” Mr Moyle said.

The bulk of batteries on the market are alkaline batteries, such as non-rechargeable AA and AAA batteries, that make up the majority of the recyclable battery waste stream.

Almost 100% of materials found in alkaline batteries, including paper, steel, zinc and manganese, can be recycled because the battery chemistry is simple to work with, Mr Moyle said.

Lead acid batteries, commonly used as car batteries, also have high recycling rates of around 95%.

“Lead acid batteries are a success story in the recycling world,” Mr Moyle said.

“There are factories that specifically recycle lead acid batteries, including two in Australia, where they recycle the acid, lead and plastic.”

On the other hand, lithium ion batteries have more complex battery chemistries, making it harder to extract all of the metals like nickel, cobalt and lithium out of them.

“Cobalt can be recycled, but it’s more about the extraction process rather than what can be recycled,” Mr Moyle said.

“These batteries have very small amounts of these precious metals, so you need the volume to make it commercially viable, and then you need the technology.

“There is a lot of work being done on that subject at the moment around the world, and here in Australia, to develop the technology to successfully do this.”

As a specialist battery recycler, the team at Ecocycle will continue to track new developments in this space.

Ecocycle recycles all types of batteries to recover metals like lead, cadmium, nickel, steel, zinc, mercury, cobalt, lithium, silver and manganese.

If your workplace has more than a small bucket load of batteries to recycle, then give us Ecocycle call on 1300 32 62 92, or fill in the form below to find out more about our battery recycling solutions.