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Is battery recycling environmentally friendly?

phys.org
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The EU will be home to 30 million electric cars by 2030 and the European Commission is preparing tough targets for recycling these and other batteries. Yet the impacts of battery recycling, especially for the sizeable lithium-ion batteries of the electric cars soon filling our streets, has been largely unstudied.
With new solution-based recycling processes, more raw materials can be recovered from batteries. In the picture, a red cobalt salt and a blue-green nickel salt have been obtained from a battery cell. Credit: Valeria Azovskaya/Aalto University



In a new study, researchers at Aalto University have investigated the environmental effects of a hydrometallurgical recycling process for electric car batteries. Using simulation-based life-cycle analysis, they considered energy and water consumption, as well as process emissions.

"Battery recycling processes are still developing, so their environmental footprints haven't yet been studied in detail. To be beneficial, recycling must be proven to be more ecological than producing raw materials- we can't just assume recycling is automatically better, even though we know mining the raw materials has large environmental impacts, like high energy and water consumption," says Mari Lundström, Assistant Professor at Aalto University.

Battery recycling often uses smelting, which typically loses lithium and other raw materials. Novel hydrometallurgical processes, which separate battery metals from waste by dissolution, enable the recovery of all metals but consume large amounts of energy and chemicals, and…
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