Recycling lithium batteries

Lithium batteries have been around for nearly 30 years now. They are used increasingly in a wide range of product, from phones to electric vehicles to aeroplanes. They have the advantage of being easily rechargeable and generate more power than older battery technologies. They do, however present specific risks when being disposed of; they are more easily flammable, and a lithium-based fire is not easy to put out. As more products and vehicles containing these batteries come to the end of their life, waste operators are having to take more care in identifying and sorting them from general waste streams. It’s a new area, but in the past few years, efforts have begun to be made to better understand how lithium batteries can be safely dealt with and recycled.

A search of the AcuComm database reveals a handful of dedicated lithium battery recycling plants around the world. Australia opened its first such facility in 2017, when Envirostream began operations in Melbourne. Its processing line can process 40 tonnes of batteries per month. The process requires batteries to have all their energy discharged prior to any handling by the company’s staff. After this first step, all batteries are granulated in an environment of negative pressure to ensure that all airborne dust particles are captured. Cobalt, nickel and lithium, which are in dust form and mixed, go for further processing and can be separated and purified to be used again in battery manufacture.

In Japan, a facility dedicated to recycling lithium batteries from electric vehicles opened in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, in 2018. The plant is operated by 4R Energy Corporation, a joint venture between Nissan and Sumitomo. The availability of used lithium-ion batteries is expected to increase significantly in the near future as buyers of the first generation of electric cars look to replace their vehicles. The batteries recycled and refabricated at the factory will be used to offer the world’s first exchangeable refabricated battery for electric vehicles.

Another approach is the better sorting of lithium batteries from the general waste stream, or indeed to sort them from other battery types. For example, In 2017, Refind Technologies installed its OBS600 optical battery sorting technology at Raw Materials Company’s (RMC) recycling facility in Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada. The equipment is capable of sorting 600 kg of batteries per hour. The OBS600 machine uses a camera and machine learning software to recognise each battery by its label. It can handle small consumer batteries of cylindrical and rectangular shape and can sort them by chemistry, including alkaline, zinc-carbon, nickel-metal hydride, nickel-cadmium and lithium primary.

Finally, a couple of major R&D centres have recently been announced, to investigate ways to recycle lithium batteries and other hard to process e-waste items. In February 2019, the US Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office opened the first lithium-ion battery recycling research and development centre at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, IL. Known as the ReCell Center, the project aims to reclaim and recycle critical materials from lithium-based battery technology. The recycling centre focuses on cost-effective recycling processes to recover as much economic value as possible from spent batteries.

Soon after, in March 2019, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the French Alternative Energies and the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA – Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives) unveiled the launch of a joint research centre to develop innovative, energy-efficient solutions for the recycling and recovery of resources from electrical and electronic waste. The new centre, named the NTU Singapore-CEA Alliance for Research in Circular Economy (NTU SCARCE), will focus on four research areas that address the recycling and recovery of materials from common e-waste such as: lithium-ion batteries, silicon-based solar panels; printed circuit boards from discarded e-waste; and detoxifying plastic parts in e-waste. The National Environment Agency of Singapore is supporting this centre under the agency’s Closing the Waste Loop Research and Development Initiative.

The map below shows the locations of all the lithium recycling and R&D sites mentioned in the AcuComm database. To explore the full dataset, click here.

mapSource: AcuComm database, October 2019

Lucky 97 for the Basel Amendment

Croatia recently made a small piece of waste management history. Earlier last month, it ratified the United Nations Basel Convention Amendment. This means that enough countries have now ratified it and it has come into force.

The Amendment in question seeks to completely ban shipments of hazardous waste from developed countries (principally OECD+EU) to developing ones. This is regardless of the method of disposal in the importing country; shipments for recycling or waste to energy are not permitted. It came into force in 1995, but national ratifications have been slow. Croatia’s ratification came on September 6th 2019, making it the 97th country to ratify. Hazardous waste is broadly defined as anything explosive, flammable, toxic or corrosive. The full definitions can be found in the annexes to the text here.

The Amendment forms part of the wider UN Basel Convention. This began in 1989 as a way of controlling the export of waste, and especially hazardous waste, to developing countries. It was ratified in 1992 with pretty much every country in the world signing up, with the large exception of the USA. Oddly, the US government signed the Convention in 1990, and the Senate gave consent in 1992. However, the accompanying legislation required has never been enacted and the Convention is therefore not ratified in the USA. Given the timescale involved I’d hazard the view that it’s not a priority for US lawmakers and we shouldn’t expect anything soon.

While the USA is the only major country yet to ratify the Convention as a whole, a number of OECD countries have yet to ratify the Amendment. These include Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico and New Zealand. Other major countries not to ratify are Brazil, India and Russia, although there is less effect in these cases as they are not OECD members.

The Basel process is still an ongoing one. In May 2019, the Convention has begun looking at the inclusion of plastic waste within its remit, with a special emphasis on reducing the amount of plastics entering the world’s oceans.

As the environmental and regulatory pressure grows, exporting of waste is going to get harder and less financially viable. This is a major headache currently, but is also a huge opportunity for the development of capacity in countries which currently export a lot of waste.

Who are these countries? The top ten leading waste exporters in 2018, by monetary value, are shown in the graph below. Note this refers to all identifiable waste, not just hazardous elements. The global total in 2018 amounted to US$113.4 billion, of which the top ten accounted for US$68.4 billion or 60.3%. The USA headed the field with just under US$21.0 billion, and seven of the remaining nine are members of the OECD. Only Russia and Hong Kong in 9th and 10th places respectively are not OECD members.

exportersSource: AcuComm analysis of UN trade statistics

Waste Project in Belarus

The World Bank is to provide €90 million to Belarus to finance the Belarus Utility Efficiency and Quality Improvement Project which will support improvements to the country’s solid waste and wastewater programmes.

The project will pilot a regional approach to solid waste management, which includes construction of the Polotsk/Novopolotsk Regional Landfill and similar facilities in other towns across the country. New landfills will replace existing mini-landfills that have no environmental controls, to ensure the safe disposal of solid waste. In addition, several studies will be undertaken on the development of the waste management sector, along with public communications campaigns to raise environmental awareness.

The World Bank has previous experience in supporting the modernisation of waste management in Belarus. In 2017, its US$48 million Integrated Solid Waste Management Project in Belarus drew to a close, having successfully established a 120,000 tpa MRF in Grodno. The lead contractor was China Machinery Engineering Corporation.

AcuComm currently lists 24 active waste, recycling and bioenergy projects in Belarus, worth a total of US$1,262 million. The largest is a proposed waste incinerator in Minsk, which would have annual capacity of 500,000 tonnes when built.

Currently Trending: Biogas, Recycling & Biomass Facilities

US$2,521 million worth of projects were covered by our researchers last week, including 22 new additions and 24 updates.

The top waste trends included:

Click on the above trends to access a real-time project search in the AcuComm database.

Currently Trending: WtE, Material Recovery, & Biomass Facilities

As part of our regular complimentary market updates, AcuComm has introduced a brand new ‘Currently Trending’ feature. This will cherry-pick the top global Waste, Bioenergy & Recycling focuses for the week, giving businesses who operate in or sell into the industry essential insights into where investments are being made.

Our latest waste trends include:

Click on the above trends to access a real-time project search in the AcuComm database.

ÅF and Pöyry to join forces as part of new merger

It has been revealed today that two of Europe’s most influential engineering and consultancy companies are to be merged as ÅF seeks to purchase Finnish company Pöyry for €611 million.

Following a unanimous decision from the Pöyry board, ÅF will be launching a cash tender offer for the entire share capital which will result in the formation of a combined company. It will be known as ÅF-Pöyry and be divided into five divisions: infrastructure, energy, process industries, industrial and digital solutions, and management and consulting.

Jonas Gustavsson, President and CEO of ÅF, said:

“Pöyry and ÅF are two of the leading engineering and consulting companies in Europe. By joining forces, we create a strong platform for international growth. We will enable clients to grow by offering our joint and leading expertise within, for example, industrial digitalization, smart cities and future energy solutions. With our larger scale, more resources and our engaged and talented people, we will improve our ability to take on even larger and more complex assignments, meeting our clients’ needs for advanced sustainable solutions for the future generations.”

Martin à Porta, President and CEO of Pöyry, believes that the merger will form “a new Nordic knowledge giant” and that they have the “the ambition, energy and ideas to take things to the next level”.

The completion of the deal is subject to certain conditions, but the Directed Share Issue is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2019.

Individually, both companies are largely involved in the waste, bioenergy and recycling sectors. Together, it is hoped that they will become a strong competitive player in the European market, with their long heritage in cutting-edge engineering and advisory, and ultimately contribute to sustainable societies.

Currently, AcuComm has 4 ÅF projects in our database, including 22 contacts. We also cover 25 Pöyry projects with 144 contacts.

Image: SabinaKraupp [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons.

Global Waste Investment Fact File: Hungary

The next edition of our Global Waste Investment Fact File focuses on Hungary, where we look into 19 waste projects in the country. These have a total value of US$749 million.


Key points from this Fact File

  • Incineration (with energy recovery) is the leading project type, accounting for US$395 million or 53% of the total. This is followed by biofuel which accounts for US$215 million or 29% of the total.
  • The total estimated capacity of these projects is 4.8 million tonnes. This is equal to 252,614 tonnes per project on average and 129% of Hungary’s estimated annual waste generation.
  • Waste investments totalling US$296 million are expected to become operational over the next few years. This is currently expected to peak in 2020 at US$215 million.
Download this Fact File.

See the full list of waste projects in Hungary covered by AcuComm.

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – France Biogas Plant

Development of a biogas plant

TRIFYL is developing a new biogas plant at its site in Labessière-Candeil that will process up to 121,000 tonnes of waste each year. The facility will work using three streams: residual waste; solid, bulky waste; biowaste (households and commercial).

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – France Biogas Plant

Global Waste Investment Fact File: India

In the India edition of our Global Waste Investment Fact File, we cover 189 waste projects that are currently active across the country. These projects have a total value of US$9,886 million and US$52 million on average.


Key points from this Fact File

  • Incineration (with energy recovery) is the leading project type, accounting for US$3,755 million or 38% of the total. This is followed by waste processing, accounting for US$2,175 million or 22% of the total.
  • The total estimated capacity of these projects is 42.2 million tonnes. This is equal to 223,019 tonnes per project on average and 12% of India’s estimated annual waste generation.
  • Waste investments totalling US$7,118 million are expected to become operational over the next few years. This is currently expected to peak in 2021 at US$2,761 million.
Download this Fact File.

Explore the full list of projects in India.

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Turkey Biomass Plant

Construction of a 27 MW biomass plant

Oltan Köleoglu Enerji and Mimsan Grup are undertaking the development of a biomass power plant in Afyon, which will use agricultural and forestry waste as feedstock.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Turkey Biomass Plant