In an extraordinary demonstration of its aim to “close the loop” on the energy-metal cycle, Lithium Australia NL (‘LIT’) has tabled its initial results from test work using recovered alkaline battery metal dust to create a micro-nutrient supplement for plant fertilizers, reports The West Australian.
The Perth-based company said that a mixed metal dust, or “MMD” containing high levels of zinc and manganese with minor amounts of graphite and potassium, can be recovered from recycled alkaline batteries.
Lithium Australia conducted an initial round of “glasshouse pot trials”, growing wheat in a variety of controlled scenarios including using the recycled zinc and manganese separately as fertilizer sulphates and a combination of the two metals as fertilizer grade sulphates. Testing was also conducted on growing the wheat using no fertilizer micro-nutrients.
The company concluded that the results were encouraging enough to proceed with further test work and said it may blend the recovered metals from spent batteries with ammonium phosphate-based fertilizers and compare the yields in a larger field-based growth trial to in order to make a comparison against commercially available fertilizer products.
The MMD is sourced from the company’s wholly owned subsidiary, Envirostream Australia Pty Ltd and according to Lithium Australia, it is the only Australian recycling facility with the capability to collect, sort, shred and separate all of the components of a lithium-ion battery and it has recently pivoted to recover materials from ordinary alkaline batteries.
Lithium Australia said than an astonishing 6,000 tonnes of alkaline batteries are sold annually around Australia and the Battery Stewardship Council estimates that at the end of their useful life, 97% of these spent products are thrown away and end up in landfill sites.
Envirostream has plans and agreements in place with shop fronts including Bunnings, Officeworks and Cleanaway to act as collection points for consumers to drop off their spent batteries to be recycled.
Lithium Australia Managing Director Adrian Griffin said: “Sustainable and ethical supply of critical materials is a global challenge. Recycling all the metals within spent batteries is something that’s rarely done effectively, which is why it remains a target for the Company.”
“We have not limited ourselves to recycling only lithium-ion batteries but, rather, have included alkaline batteries in a bid to eliminate all such items from landfill.”
“We’re cognizant of the environmental implications of burying such ‘waste’ and encourage all consumers to join us in recycling every spent battery for the benefit of the environment now for the sake of the future.”