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Why Lithium from batteries ends up still in the trash

Lithium-ion drive battery, the E-mobility, with cars as with bikes. However, in the case of Recycling, it looks mau.

Lara Janssen

Reiner Weyhe has taken on the task to recycle batteries. Also, Lithium-ion batteries from E-Bikes land in its plant in North Rhine-Westphalia. There is a Team decomposed the average of three kilos of batteries, and extracted raw materials, such as cobalt and Nickel. Depending on the manufacturer, the batteries from different raw materials, but they all contain, as the Name suggests, a currently popular Element: Lithium. Ironically, the Lithium is not recycled. It is not profitable.

"Worldwide, there are still not that can recycle the Lithium economically," said Weyhe. The returned mass was far too low. But that could change soon, the number of battery rises powered devices. Also manufacturer of electric and hybrid cars on Lithium, and about 95 percent of all E-Bikes in Europe are in circulation, to now with Lithium batteries.

The technology has developed faster than the law. The battery act applies since 2009 and is implementing an EU Directive from the year 2006. At the time, electro-mobility was not a big issue, and Lithium batteries were less common. The Lithium batteries do not form a category of their own, but are assigned to the "Other", only 50 percent of the batteries have to be recycled. As the EU target in 2013 slightly revised, changed nothing.

doesn't take care of recycling the environment

Lithium-ion batteries, "were, among other things, for the breakthrough of E-Bikes," says Siegfried Neuberger, Director of Zweirad-Industrie-Verband (ZIV). In comparison to batteries of Nickel-Cadmium, the operated end of the 1990s, E-Bike models, decreases the capacity of Lithium-ion batteries when they are only partially discharged. In addition, Lithium is the lightest metal, but has a comparatively high memory capacity.

Therefore, the Lithium batteries in E-Bikes were fast. The ZIV forecasts that the share of E-Bikes will be the total Bicycle market in the long term, 35 percent, last year it was 19 percent. In Recycling, you come with some years of delay: The batteries of E-Bikes to keep a report of the German Federal Ministry for the environment, nature conservation and reactor safety, according to five to seven years. In addition, many of the cyclists maintained their lower batteries, often as a back-up pieces.

The need for a functioning Recycling System, specially designed for industrial batteries, will thus grow strong. Quality Recycling not only protects the environment, it also has the function of raw materials reduces, especially from crisis regions. In the meantime, there are Lithium batteries without cobalt, which is mined in the Congo, often by children. However, the extraction of Lithium is dirty such as in Chile, the groundwater and destroyed habitats.

values The Problem: too little garbage

The Fraunhofer Institute that the additional demand for Lithium alone for E-cars will rise by 2035 in the three and a half times that of today's lithium production. Worldwide, there are recent estimates of the Geological Survey showed that 62 million tons of reserves. Thus, the raw material of the batteries up in the trash, but the recycling plants, which must exist an unbroken chain: from the consumer via the dealer to the plant. Manufacturers and importers are obliged to do so by law, the distributors a reasonable opportunity to return used rechargeable batteries. Together with the Foundation GRS, which gathers since 1998, nationwide, on behalf of the Federal government, used batteries, sorted and recycled, the ZIV one of the take-back systems, where the Bicycle manufacturer and retailer to connect voluntarily. Around 3,000 Bicycle retailers take part in all of Germany.

salt blocks on the Uyuni salt lake in Bolivia. It may contain the world's largest Lithium reserves.

(photo: Gaston Brito/Reuters)

The principle: The customers bring their used batteries to a participating dealer, the masking is used the Pole to protect the batteries and Packed in a green GRS-ton collects. The bin is full, the dealer gives the GRS, and employees of contracted companies will pick you up within twelve working days and drive them to the sorting equipment. Last year, the GRS collected more than 100 000 kilograms of Old batteries from the bikes. Then it goes in the recycling plants.

belongs to One of them to the company by Reiner Weyhe: Accurec Recycling. Founded in 1996, was created six years ago, one of Europe's largest facilities for the Recycling of Lithium-ion batteries from electric mobility. Last year the Team recycled 1500 tons of Lithium-ion batteries. The batteries are sorted and the raw materials in thermal processes separated from each other. Substances such as Nickel and copper can be recycled completely as well as the world's most abundant metal, manganese, and as a building material in road construction, used in a buildup of waste products.

Only the Lithium remains on the track. It makes up about one to two percent of the batteries of bikes. "The quantities are too low, than Lithium would be recycled worthwhile," said Weyhe. So far there are only pilot projects. He estimates that Europe could be currently recycles 4000 tons of Lithium per year, to cover costs it is, however, only in the case of more than 20 000 tonnes in the year. If Lithium-ion batteries prevail in the electro-mobility could be achieved by this mass fast. "I think that 2030 is a significant mass of Lithium can economically be useful to be recycled," said Weyhe. Until then, the Lithium ends up legally in the garbage.

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