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The next level in battery recycling

AkkuSer is the first company in the EU to have developed a technology for recycling hazardous batteries and accumulators in an environmentally sustainable way.

The volume of waste batteries generated by modern society is growing all the time, with so many of the cameras, mobile phones, laptops, and hand tools that we take for granted today dependent on batteries. When they run out or can no longer be recharged, they quickly become a problem.

Why? Because the mercury, cadmium, and lead they contain are hazardous to the environment. These materials also represent a valuable recycling resource, however, as do the other metals in battery-related waste streams.

Beats older technology every time

Recycling techniques for dealing with this type of waste have existed for some time, but they are very inefficient, particularly in terms of energy use. Now that battery recycling is required in EU 27 countries, and a number of others have either introduced similar legislation or are on the way to doing so, something better is needed.

AkkuSer’s Dry-Technology┬« takes recycling and material recovery to a new level for portable batteries, Ni-Mh, Li-ion, Ni-Cd, and 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. Metal content is identified and sorted very accurately and recovered for onward use, while plastic and board are separated out for recycling as energy.

EU countries generate tens of thousands of tonnes of waste batteries and accumulators every year. AkkuSer’s Dry-Technology┬« and its network of partners represent a very effective way of dealing with this challenge and turning it into a truly sustainable recycling opportunity.

The operating costs of AkkuSer’s fully automated process 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.

Delivering on the recovery promise

AkkuSer already processes most of the rechargeable batteries and battery waste generated in Finland and Estonia today, and half of the waste in Norway and Sweden, and has the capacity to handle even larger volumes at its dedicated plant in Central Finland.

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 worldwide.

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 – not only in Europe, but also further afield.

> Jarmo Pudas
(Published in HighTech Finland 2011)