The Environmental Impacts of Recycling Portable Lithium-Ion Batteries

Anna Boyden, Vi Kie Soo*, Matthew Doolan

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

    144 Citations (Scopus)


    Waste from electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) is one of the fastest growing waste streams, with its volume expected to increase by a third from 2013 to 2017. Lithium-ion batteries are the most common battery type used in portable electronic devices and their use is expected to double from 2013-14 to 2019-20. The recycling of lithium-ion batteries reduces energy consumption, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and results in considerable natural resource savings when compared to landfill. However, it is unclear which recycling processes have the least impact on the environment. This paper will investigate the different processes that are currently used for recycling portable lithium-ion batteries, such as hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and combinations of processes. Surveys are carried out to understand the materials recovered from each process, and are obtained from several recycling companies around the world. A comparative life cycle assessment will be performed for two different recycling processes (hydrometallurgy and pyrometallurgy), in order to understand the associated environmental impacts. This study shows that the largest contributors to the environmental impacts are electricity generation, incineration of plastics, and landfilling of residue. In terms of environmental effects, it is suggested that the most beneficial processes are those that utilise low temperatures, and are capable of recovering plastic.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)188-193
    Number of pages6
    JournalProcedia CIRP
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    Event23rd CIRP Conference on Life Cycle Engineering, LCE 2016 - Berlin, Germany
    Duration: 22 May 201624 May 2016


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