Electric vehicles are growing every day, and they are certainly going to be the future of automotive technology. However, the cars are typically powered by one of two ways Fuel Cell technology and Lithium-Ion Batteries. But a common question you might have is are those batteries recyclable, what about the ones you place in your Xbox Controller? Well broadly yes but there are some heavy caveats that we are going to need to go into for the major types of batteries.
Can Electric Vehicle Batteries Be Recycled?
Yes, lithium-ion batteries are recyclable they are in fact 100% recyclable but there is a caveat. The economics for recycling a battery doesn’t make sense recycling a lithium-ion battery can cost up to 5 times as much as simply producing a new one.
This partially due to the fact that there is no main recycling infrastructure in the world for automotive Li-ion batteries. There are a few small one-off plants scattered around the world but most are in a “demonstration stage”. In the future when we have a better recycling infrastructure in place recycling will likely become the main source of lithium supply. But due to the current cost there simply isn’t a good reason to do it yet.
But Wait, Tesla Has an Answer
Telsa has been recycling the batteries that are made in its Gigafactory for quite some time now. In the past, they were using third-party recyclers but now the company is setting up its own battery recycling facility.
This gives Tesla a unique advantage in that it acts as a closed-loop system. By cutting out a third-party recycler tesla can save money on new battery production since it won’t need to buy new materials.
“The closed-loop battery recycling process at Gigafactory 1 presents a compelling solution to move energy supply away from the fossil-fuel based practice of take, make, and burn to a more circular model of recycling end-of-life batteries for reuse over and over again,” the company said in its environmental report.
So, if you own a Tesla there is already a system in place to recycle your vehicle batteries. Other companies have similar systems in place including Nissan who will also recycle their batteries.
But, you likely won’t be able to (let alone if you even could) drop off your battery at a facility and say “here you go”.
What About My Double-A Batteries?
Ahh, yes fellow gamers you’re actually in a bit of a predicament. Most batteries that are not rechargeable are made with Alkaline. The typical recommendation for these is to toss them in the trash when they are drained. Now, a note if you live in California technically disposal of any battery is illegal.
But, even Alkaline / single-use batteries can be recycled but its almost never free unless your local government has a system in place. For instance, we are based in Nashville where a resident of Davidson County can bring up to 15 gallons or 100 pounds of hazardous waste each month to be recycled and there is no cost.
The best way to find out if there is an option where you live is to search on Earth 911.
I also personally recommend you look at purchasing rechargeable batteries as opposed to purchasing single-use batteries. You can then also use the same website Earth 911 to learn where to recycle these batteries when they are no longer able to hold a charge. As for cost savings, it’s hard to say it would take a substantial amount of time before you save money on these batteries.
Why Should I Recycle My Batteries?
One thing I always admit is that recycling is not only complicated it’s terrible (in the United States). An item might say it’s recyclable on the packaging but your recycling pickup might not be able to process it. Some companies require you to wrap your recyclables in a trash bag where others might not.
The entire system lacks any sort of standardization and that’s obnoxious. But, at the end of the day, it makes sense, if you buy a water bottle for instance that bottle will sit in a hole in the ground for several hundred years. You have taken a useful material that is durable enough to last hundreds of years and you threw it in a hole.
That to me is the ultimate waste if you use many single-use plastics, batteries whatever and there is a chance of giving them a new lease on life that should be motivating enough.