A new study conducted by a team of researchers from the Aalto University in Finland has found that the carbon footprint of raw materials acquired through recycling electric vehicle batteries is 38% less than that of virgin raw materials.
In order to reach this conclusion, the researchers used simulation-based life cycle to account for water and energy consumption as well as emissions in smelting, a hydrometallurgical recycling process. Generally, this technique loses various raw materials including lithium while new hydrometallurgical processes work by separating battery metals from waste through dissolution, which allows the minerals to be recovered. However, the process uses up high amounts of chemicals and energy and produces contaminated waste waters.
Despite these faults, the researchers encountered minor overall “side effects” when the battery minerals, in particular aluminum and copper, were recycled, and found that the treatment of mixed waste streams reduced the chemical consumption in leaching. However, they also found a few problem areas.
For instance, in a media statement, lead author of the paper Marja Rinne explained that the researchers noticed that the use of sodium hydroxide as a neutralizing chemical considerably increased the environmental load of their process. The study was published online on “Science Direct.”
Based on their results, Rinne and her colleague researchers suggest using simulation-based life cycle analyses before new techniques are implemented. They note, through their observations, that these evaluations are useful in helping determine how various parameters or choices influence the environmental effects of a process, making them an efficient tool for decision-making that can be used by both policymakers and the industry.
It should be noted that for accurate inventory analysis, process modeling and scenario analysis were carried out.
With the fast adoption of EVs expected to significantly increase the demand for battery metals such as cobalt, nickel and lithium, the researchers also believe that this is the time to develop other methods of recycling. This can be seen in the European Union’s projections, which show that by 2030, the area will be required to host 30 million electric vehicles. This is why the region proposes to recycle 70% of lithium and 95% of copper, nickel and cobalt from electric cars by the end of the decade.
In the brief, study co-author Mari Lundström noted that research on technological innovations and their different effects on the environment go hand in hand, explaining that companies and countries would have to find and use the most ecological and viable recycling processes as the need for recycling will increase significantly in the future.
Sadly, some mining operations contaminate nearby land and water bodies. However, programs such as the one in which Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE American: UUUU) (TSX: EFR) could work with the U.S. federal government to remediate mines which were decommissioned during the Cold War, can fix such contamination.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE American: UUUU) (TSX: EFR) are available in the company’s newsroom at http://ibn.fm/UUUU
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