Tell us about Lithium Battery Recycling Solutions?
Lithium Battery Recycling Solutions (LBRS) is a new division of Cawleys recycling and waste management. This represents a milestone for Cawleys, which has recognised the importance for the service to be separated into its own entity after being previously run under the Hazardous Waste division.
Having initially seen my first automotive lithium battery in 2012, the last 10 years of operation has seen a lot of development as we have become subject experts in the logistics, handling and decommissioning of waste lithium-ion battery packs especially from electric vehicles and hybrids.
The announcement comes at an exciting time for us as we have also developed our next stage of treatment which will see the batteries turned into materials ready to be processed to create new raw materials to be fed back into the creation of new batteries. This will be online in 2022 and one of the first commercially open plants of its kind in the UK.
How does it fit into the Cawleys business?
The recycling of lithium batteries is not far removed from other wastes that Cawleys has concentrated on giving sustainable options for many years. In principle, we are taking something made up of different materials and then separating these so they can be recycled. This happens when we collect general wastes for instance and through our Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) we have machinery, sorting equipment and operatives which successfully extract card, paper, plastic, metals etc which are all onwardly recycled as a separate fraction. The lithium batteries are treated to a similar principal although the techniques and waste fractions differ a lot.
LBRS is one of the very few lithium battery recycling services in the UK and has been developed to meet the growing demand for electrical power, both from electric vehicles and other areas such as machinery.
How does the lithium battery production process work?
Lithium battery production relies heavily on the mining of raw materials such as cobalt and nickel. These are extremely valuable and not typically abundant elements which are increasing in demand to make new batteries. By recycling the lithium batteries that are currently in use, the reliance on mining raw materials is reduced and it also gives a significant CO2 saving of approximately 38%. This provides a sustainable, full-circle solution by reclaiming valuable elements and turning them into new raw materials.
This approach is vitally important in a world where protecting the environment is top of the agenda and the inevitability of increased demand on resource which will require battery recycling services to grow exponentially.
What health and safety procedures does the company have in place?
The waste industry is one of the most dangerous and we have very robust health and safety procedures in place already which is a good foundation to work from. Lithium batteries add high voltage and a significant fire risk, which we have been very respectful of over the years of dealing with them.
There hasn’t been any established guidance to follow, so we have developed our own working practices backed by risk assessment, method statements and standard operating procedures. Every part of our process has been carefully considered to minimise risk and dealing with the batteries compliantly at their end of life is a basic health and safety requirement.
LBRS is one of the first companies to provide a completely regulated service ensuring the safe collection, transportation, storage, dismantling and recycling of lithium batteries.
Alan Colledge, Technical Director, Lithium Battery Recycling Solutions