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ISRI and the EPA Focus on Lithium-Ion Battery Processing

At the recent convention in Las Vegas, the Electronics Division hosted a panel discussion on lithium-ion battery processing. The safety of lithium-based batteries has attracted a significant amount of media and legal attention as of late, so it is no surprise it has been a hot topic with ISRI members.

At the ISRI convention, speakers discussed collection strategies of lithium-ion batteries, proper handling of the different types of lithium batteries, testing for reuse for specific types of reusable batteries, and packing of batteries designed for recycling to meet Department of Transportation guidelines.

The panel was composed of industry experts: Craig Boswell, president of HOBI International Inc., Todd Ellis, director of production stewardship programs for Call2Recycle, Inc., Todd Coy, executive vice president at KBI and vice president of Retriev Technologies, Inc., and Robert Kang, CEO of Blue Whale Materials, responsible for overall strategy, consumer acquisition, and partnership development at BMW. Together, the group discussed how different types of lithium batteries are recycled into feedstock for refining and the final refining process used to create materials to manufacture new batteries. Boswell explained “this is a critical issue for our industry, as these batteries become more ubiquitous across all types of products, we need to insure we protect employees and recover the valuable commodities contained in the batteries.”

In addition, the EPA has assisted with this very important issue by conducting two webinars on lithium-ion battery processing and safety. The first webinar entitled, “Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Web Academy Webinar: An Introduction to Lithium Batteries and the Challenges that they Pose to the Waste and Recycling Industry,” speakers discussed how quickly lithium-ion batteries are becoming more prevalent in American homes and businesses as electronic devices become smaller, more portable and more essential to our daily lives. The webinar covered the basics of lithium batteries, the impacts to the waste management industry, and information on lithium battery recycling.

The second EPA webinar entitled, “Sustainability Materials Management (SMM) Web Academy Webinar: Management Challenges for Lithium Batteries at Electronics Recyclers,” continued the discussion on problems presented by lithium batteries at material recovery facilities (MRFs). This webinar was presented as a panel discussion on the problems of electronic recyclers are facing, recommended best practices for removal and transportation of lithium batteries from electronics and suggestions for how manufacturers and recyclers can work together to solve this problem.

The development of lithium-ion technology has played a significant role in technology evolution, never more so than in the consumer electronics sector. Today’s consumer demands that mobile devices and other technologies give them increased functionality with portability, and lithium-ion has helped manufacturers deliver that performance. However, considering the growing number of lithium-ion batteries being used on the market, electronic manufacturers and recyclers must strive to continue examining and improving safe handling and transport of these devices.

Lithium-Ion batteries will be with us for the foreseeable future and a wide variety of issues and challenges will face this and other industries who use, handled and transport them. In other words, this is an issue that will be addressed at the ISRI Electronics Division. If you would like more information or would like to participate in these discussions, please sign up and participate in the Division meetings and events. 

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