ISRI recently received an inquiry if progress was being made on the safety issues connected with lithium-ion batteries. For those unfamiliar with the issue, there have been a number of facility fires and safety issues resulting from the volatile nature of damaged lithium-ion batteries.
These batteries are pervasive in today's electronics devices, from Bluetooth headsets to laptops. They are so ubiquitous, that it is often difficult to sort them out of recycling streams. In addition, attempts to properly recycle these batteries are often hampered by product design and the pervasive use of adhesives to attach batteries in the devices. Examining the challenges facing recyclers of these devices and the risk a battery fire represents, it is fortunate there have not been more serious incidents such as a fire at a major shopping mall where device repair and battery recovery is often performed.
In response to the question – is progress being made – the answer is yes. Dialogues are beginning that will address methods to make these batteries easier to identify, safer to remove, and safer to transport to processing facilities. The stakeholders involved in this issue extend far beyond the recyclers, to include the manufacturers, repair facilities, and transportation companies. The first step to addressing these safety concerns is raising awareness of the issue and fostering these dialogues between the varied stakeholders.
However, there is still work to be done to establish a set of industry safety standards and manufacturing protocols in order to create efficient methods in the removal of lithium-ion batteries and device repair and recycling processes. Previously, concerns were raised about the efficiency of OEM manufacturing operations. Lithium-ion batteries are typically marketed and sold directly to OEMs as components to be integrated into various end-use products. However, because OEM products actually control functions, factors such as product safety issues involving cell charging rates, discharging rates, reverse charging, and removal may not be adequately addressed by battery testing alone.
The development of these batteries is an active area in fundamental research and product development. Knowledge regarding the use and abuse of these products and their possible failure modes is still growing. Therefore, it is vital that safety standards and dialogue continues to evolve in order to help drive towards safe commercial use of lithium-ion batteries as they begin to power more and more innovative products entering the market.
By Craig Boswell, HOBI International, Inc.
About Craig Boswell
Craig Boswell is co-founder and President of HOBI International, Inc. In this capacity, he is extensively involved in the design, development, and deployment of electronics demanufacturing and recycling techniques. Craig is HOBI’s chief industry consultant on demanufacturing, design for disassembly, and reverse logistics programs. Craig has published and presented numerous papers on the recycling of electronic products and the keys to designing more recyclable products.
About HOBI International, Inc.
HOBI International, Inc. is a leading IT and mobile asset management and electronics recycling company serving Fortune 1000 clients across North America. Since 1992, HOBI has provided comprehensive solutions for the remarketing and environmentally responsible recycling of electronic assets.
HOBI’s IT services team help organizations big and small process end-of-life electronics with a focus on corporate IT, data, and telecommunications infrastructure. Our services include resale/remarketing, data erasure/data destruction, recycling, environmental and compliance reporting, de-installation services, and logistics management.
HOBI is an R2/RIOS and ISO 14001 certified firm with more than 25 years experience in enterprise asset management and disposition. The company’s pioneering enterprise asset process makes HOBI the leader in its industry. HOBI’s professionals are trained in value maximization and will set up customized enterprise asset service programs based on client needs.