The big paradox of green, recyclable batteries

 

More exactly, of green AND recyclable batteries.

The world needs to Crack Battery Recycling, Fast, and this also involves solving a paradox.

The big paradox of green, recyclable batteries /img/battery-recycling.jpg
CAPTION: Batteries collected for recycling, source: Wikipedia

The move to electrification of transportation, from cars to trains generates mountains of batteries that must NOT end up in landfills. The paradox is that it is much easier to achieve that goal if the batteries contain highly toxic, highly troublesome substances, that is if they are made in the most anti-ecological way possible. Quoting from Wired:

“Today, cobalt is the most sought-after material used in batteries. In its raw form, [cobalt] is predominantly sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where miners work in perilous conditions. The world’s major electric car manufacturers are already moving away from cobalt, deterred by the human rights abuses, shortages in the supply chain, and fluctuating prices.”

And here comes the paradox:

“That raises the question of whether recyclers will still find it worthwhile to dismantle newer battery types lacking the most valuable ingredients. When you move to more sustainable materials, and lower cost materials, the incentive to recycle and recover them diminishes”.

The solution is clear, just politically hard to manage as quickly as it would be needed: “the industry needs to rethink its approach. Today’s recycling methods are crude and designed to extract only high-value materials from the cells. “

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