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Li-Cycle: Recycled lithium battery materials sent to first commercial customer


Canada-headquartered start-up Li-Cycle has claimed a victory in commercialising its lithium battery recycling processes, with a shipment sent to a customer just before the end of last year.

Founded in the mid-2010s, Li-Cycle was in 2019 among the prominent advocates for the recycling of lithium-ion batteries. In early June, published quotes from the company claiming 100% of materials from lithium batteries – including cobalt – could be achieved using Li-Cycle’s two-step process.

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The company literally shreds batteries to “mechanically size reduce” the devices. This can be done safely even with batteries that still hold charge, Li-Cycle claims. The second step is to then use a hydrometallurgy and wet chemistry process to remove the valuable components and materials one at a time.

Li-Cycle said in a press release last week that the first shipment “of commercially recycled battery material” was completed in December 2019, after processing at Li-Cycle’s Ontario facility. The company affirmed that materials including cobalt, nickel and of course lithium in a shipment that included a concentrate of the energy metals, had been successfully delivered to the unnamed customer.

“The first shipment of commercial product marks a significant milestone for Li-Cycle, on the company's path to becoming a premier resource recovery processor, handling all types of lithium-ion batteries from a broad set of customers and applications,” Li-Cycle president and CEO Ajay Kochhar said.

Others, including consultant Hans Eric Melin at Circular Energy Storage, have similarly spelled out that while lithium recycling is a huge supply chain issue, it is also a big commercial and environmental opportunity. Image: Circular Energy Storage.

Renewable, recyclable

Li-Cycle said it is expanding to facilities in the US during this year. reached out to the company today for comment and to make some specific enquiries on the shipment itself, but was yet to receive a reply at the time of publication.

In a 2019 feature article / tech paper for this site and for our journal PV Tech Power, Stefan Hogg, operations and business development for Li-Cycle, wrote extensively about the process(es) and how they work, as well as putting some numbers to both the existing and expected opportunities for recycling of lithium batteries and materials.

While – as with lithium battery production from scratch – EVs and portable electronics are likely to soak up demand for now, Li-Cycle is also confident the stationary energy storage industry will benefit – as will economies and the environment all over the world.

“As a key driver of the transition away from a carbon-based economy, li-ion batteries are integral to the opportunity to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide,” Hogg wrote.

“However, to ensure a truly positive impact over their lifecycle, we must ensure a closed-loop system is in place to safely handle and recycle spent li-ion batteries at scale. This will enable the reintegration of critical battery materials into the li-ion battery supply chain and the broader economy, while preventing negative environmental and safety impacts”.

Read 'Batteries need to be ‘renewable’ too: why recycling matters now', from Li-Cycle's Stefan Hogg, here on the site. You can also download it as a PDF from our 'Resources' page. 

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