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Taking battery recycling to a new level

They may be small, but they’re an essential part of our modern way of life. Back before we knew better, we used to throw them away without any thought to where they ended up. Today, thanks to AkkuSer, they can be disposed of safely and the valuable metals they contain reused very effectively.

Batteries are something that all of us use every day – in our cameras, mobile phones, computers, tools, and many other products – and all of them run out or can no longer be recharged at some point. When they stop being useful, they become a problem, however, as many contain materials that are hazardous to the environment. The worst offenders, of course, are mercury, cadmium, and lead. Together with other materials – such as zinc, manganese, and cobolt – they also represent a valuable recycling resource.

Now that battery recycling is required in EU 27 countries and a number of others are moving in the same direction, technologists have been working hard to develop solutions that go beyond what conventional systems can offer. AkkuSer is the first company to enter the market with a commercial system that is both much more sustainable and efficient.

Volumes of waste batteries are growing rapidly. With its groundbreaking ability to turn them into a valuable resource for new products, AkkuSer’s technology has a bright future worldwide.

More efficient all around

Known as Dry Technology, AkkuSer’s process takes battery recycling and material recovery to a new level. Equally applicable to Ni-Mh, Li-ion, Ni-Cd, lead accumulators, and alkaline batteries, the technology is unique in that it does not require water or chemicals, which results in zero liquid effluent and minimal quantities of solid waste. Its ability to identify and sort metal content very precisely is also a major plus. After crushing and treating the dust and gases generated, the metals are recovered and the plastic and board recycled as energy.

The operating costs of the fully automated process are significantly below those of older smelter-based approaches, typically 90% lower. While conventional technology can achieve the minimum 50% recycling requirement imposed in the EU, around half of the materials processed normally ends up in landfills. AkkuSer’s Dry Technology, in contrast, can deliver a recycling/reuse efficiency of more than 90%.

Strong partnerships

AkkuSer processes most of the rechargeable batteries and battery waste generated in Finland and Estonia today, and half of the waste in Norway and Sweden. The company’s dedicated plant in Finland is capable of handling additional volumes as well, and more capacity is being added.

AkkuSer has built up a network of agreements with partners covering both the collection of batteries for processing and the reuse of the metals generated by its process. OMG Kokkola Chemicals, for example, receives the lithium cobalt oxide cathode material extracted from Li-ion batteries – the most valuable recyclable component contained in this type of battery – and uses it in the manufacture of cobalt chemicals for new Li-ion products, sending them as far afield as Japan. Nickel waste goes to Boliden Harjavalta’s smelter and Norilsk Nickel’s nearby nickel plant and ends up as metallic nickel.

> Jarmo Pudas
(Published in HighTech Finland 2010)