The global lithium-ion battery (LiB) recycling market will increase from US$41bn in 2021 to US$116.6bn by 2030, according to data analysts ReportLinker, with electric vehicles (EVs) being a key growth driver. In the same period, LiB waste produced by EVs will rise to 11 million metric tons, according to the World Economic Forum, a dramatic rise from the 600,000 metric tons forecast for 2025.
An International Energy Agency report on clean energy minerals recently concluded that recycled quantities of copper, lithium, nickel, and cobalt from spent batteries could reduce combined primary supply requirements for these minerals by around 10% by 2040.
LiB recycling policies are further along in the EU than in the US. The EU has a litany of requirements for the reuse and recycling of battery materials, which require manufacturers to design batteries for easy recycling and mandate that new batteries include a minimum amount of recycled content. In addition, by 2027, battery and vehicle manufacturers will be expected to provide easily accessible information on the recycled quantities and sources of cobalt, lithium, nickel, and lead in every battery sold.
With all these incoming regulations in mind, US-based Aqua Metals is developing what it claims to be the cleanest and most cost-efficient LiB recycling solution to date. The company claims it can recover a higher percentage of the metals at a higher quality with a lower operating cost than the current methods being applied or developed in the industry without the damaging effects of furnaces and greenhouse emissions.