We know that we are going to need vast amounts of lithium, cobalt and other metals to create the lithium-ion batteries that are going to be necessary to store the more variable energy produced by renewables like wind and solar so that it can continue to power homes and industry when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun has set.
Presently obtaining these materials from mining is not only environmentally destructive but the sources are far from the manufacturing plants. Transportation across great distances adds to the emissions produced (see the cathode supply chain map on Redwood Material’s website.
Source: Cathode Supply Chain, Redwood Materials
Redwood Materials is just one of many companies named in an MIT Technology review article that states that “Recycling facilities can now recover nearly all of the cobalt and nickel and over 80% of the lithium from used batteries and manufacturing scrap left over from battery production—and recyclers plan to resell those metals for a price nearly competitive with that of mined materials. Aluminum, copper, and graphite are often recovered as well.”
Although the recycling process is not 100% companies such as Redwood Materials are providing an alternative to costly - both in terms of money and the planet - mining operations.
Over 150 million phones are thrown out each year - rerouting these to recycling is possible now and the technology is sure to improve over time. Have a look at Redwood Materials ‘recycle with us’ page to see what is in your devices and learn how you can contribute to lowering the amount of these materials that must be mined.