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Got a battery, we can recycle it

AkkuSer is the first company in the EU to have developed a technology that enables hazardous batteries and accumulators to be recycled in a truly sustainable way.

The tens of millions of batteries in today’s cameras, mobile phones, laptops, and cordless tools are rapidly becoming a growing problem – when they run out or can no longer be recharged – because of the mercury, cadmium, and lead they contain. At the same time, they also represent a valuable recycling resource, as do the other metals contained in battery-related waste streams.

Although recycling techniques capable of handling this type of waste exist, they are very inefficient, particularly in terms of energy usage. Something better is clearly needed.

AkkuSer’s Dry-Technology┬« marks an important milestone in this respect, as it takes recycling and material recovery to a new level for everything from portable batteries, Ni-Mh, Li-ion, and Ni-Cd units to lead accumulators. What makes the technology unique is that it does not require water or chemicals, which results in zero liquid effluent and minimal quantities of solid waste. Metal content is identified and sorted very accurately and recovered for onward use, while plastic and board are separated out for recycling as energy.

The operating costs of AkkuSer’s fully automated process are also very attractive, as they are typically 90% lower than those of older technologies. AkkuSer’s Dry-Technology┬« also delivers a recycling/reuse efficiency of more than 90%, while around half of the materials processed using conventional technology normally ends up in landfills.

Thanks to the efficiency of its technology, AkkuSer already processes nearly all the battery waste generated in Finland today, and also handles batteries from Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, Austria, Slovakia, and even countries as far away as New Zealand. AkkuSer has the capacity to handle even larger volumes, as well as the potential to export its technology to local partners.

Li-ion, Li-polymer, alkaline…

The cathode material extracted by AkkuSer when it recycles Li-ion and Li-polymer batteries – the most valuable recyclable component contained in these batteries – is sent to OMG Kokkola Chemicals, for example, for use in the manufacture of cobalt chemicals for use in new Li-ion products.

Nickel recycled from nickel-metal batteries goes to Boliden Harjavalta’s smelter and Norilsk Nickel’s nearby nickel plant and ends up as metallic nickel. The success of this partnership model gives AkkuSer a valuable competitive edge, over and above its technology, and one that has major potential.

Given the fact that alkaline batteries comprise some 80% of all the batteries sold in Europe, the need for recycling these batteries is perhaps the greatest of all.

Newly developed AkkuSer technology now enables the company to recycle over 80% of the contents of these batteries at room temperature using a combined crushing and chemical process.

Crushing converts batteries into a black mass, from which iron is first removed for onward sale to iron processors. The remaining mass is then chemically treated to extract the other metals present, and the zinc and manganese further processed chemically into a form suitable for onward sale to metal and/or chemical refineries.

AkkuSer already processes nearly all the battery waste generated in Finland today, as well as batteries from a number of other countries.

> Jarmo Pudas
(Published in HighTech Finland 2013)