Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Are Lithium Ion Batteries Sustainable to the Environment? (I)

Lithium Ion batteries are used on a large scale to power portable electronics and implanted medical devices mainly ? cell phones, pacemakers, watches along with numerous other devices, such as MP3 players, calculators, remote car locks, battery backup systems in computers etc. The use of Smart grid technology for efficient electricity generation has been facilitated with the arrival of Lithium Ion (Li-ion) batteries as Li-ion cells can now be used to power the house with clean electricity, during days when energy is not being generated. In addition, considering the rising pollution levels, electric vehicles are now being designed with the help of these cells. These electric vehicles are truly "green", both emission-free in operation and sustainable in design as they work on batteries that can be recycled.

According to the experts, Lithium Ion batteries have been categorized as non-hazardous waste and are safe for disposal in the normal municipal waste stream. In comparison with other types of batteries that include toxic metals such as cadmium, the metals in lithium ion batteries - cobalt, copper, nickel and iron - are considered safe for landfills or incinerators.

However, dumping Lithium Ion batteries is a waste of valuable metals, as they can be replenished and reused. The researchers estimate that around 8,000 and 9,000 tons of cobalt is used in the manufacture of lithium ion batteries each year. Similarly other important metals (copper, nickel and iron) also contribute to the production of lithium ion batteries These metals found in Lithium Ion batteries are extremely significant, and its sustainable use and re-use is essential.

However, it still seems difficult to manage the battery waste because the scrap value of batteries doesn't amount to much, but in contrast the cost of collecting, sorting and shipping used batteries to a recycler exceeds the scrap value, so batteries tend to be thrown away. Sadly, the market does not consider the social cost of disposal, nor does it recycle precious metals such as cobalt, having a much lower economic and environmental cost than mining raw materials.

Shouldn't social and environmental factors be put ahead while recycling batteries, rather than giving undue importance to the costing of logistics?

Read further to know how Lithium Ion batteries are vital, considering their recyclable nature and find out if any countries are sincerely paying heed to the recycling of batteries?

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