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A qualitative assessment of lithium ion battery recycling processes

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Mohammad RajaeifarORCiD, Professor Oliver Heidrich



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


With the widespread adoption of e-mobility, there are high numbers of lithium Ion batteries (LIB) entering the waste stream. It is imperative that disposal and recycling strategies are developed and implemented. There is an urgent need for safe, environmentally friendly and economically affordable disposal routes for End of Life (EoL) LIBs. This study has looked at 44 commercial recyclers and assessed their recycling and reclamation processes. A novel qualitative assessment matrix termed “Strategic materials Weighting And Value Evaluation" (SWAVE) is proposed and used to compare the strategic importance and value of various materials in EoL LIBs. The sustainability and quality of recycled material are assessed by comparing the final form or composition after the recycling processes, the industrial processes and the industry type (primary sector, manufacturer or recycler). SWAVE is applied to each company, producing a score out of 20, with a higher number indicating that more materials can be recycled. The separation processes and resources from six of the prominent recycling companies are discussed further. The majority of recyclers use one or more of mechanical treatment, pyrometallurgy, or hydrometallurgy, concentrating upon high value metal extraction rather than closed-loop recycling of the metals or component materials, highlighting an environmental and technological gap. To improve the current circular economy of batteries reuse and repurposing of materials (closed-loop recycling), instead of purely recycling or recovery of metals should be considered for further development. Further studies of environmental trade-offs from recycling or recovering one material in preference to another is required.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sommerville R, Zhu P, Rajaeifar MA, Heidrich O, Goodship V, Kendrick E

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Resources, Conservation and Recycling

Year: 2021

Volume: 165

Print publication date: 01/02/2021

Online publication date: 28/10/2020

Acceptance date: 10/10/2020

Date deposited: 06/01/2021

ISSN (print): 0921-3449

ISSN (electronic): 1879-0658

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.105219


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