In a bid to fight the impact of climate change, experts are vying for greater use of electricity as an alternative to fossil fuels. Meanwhile, with advancements in battery technology, in the U.S., plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles are increasing on the road. And, utilities are expanding their use of renewable fuels to generate power, supported by large-scale battery storage system.
This, along with the growing volume of battery-powered phones, laptops, watches, wearable devices and other consumer technologies leave us to wonder: where will all these batteries land once they wear out?
Efforts of Manufacturers for sustainable design so far inadequate
Meanwhile, the enthusiasm of manufacturers for more powerful, cheaper, and energy-intensive batteries is overwhelming. Nonetheless, the attention to make these essential devices more sustainable comparatively has drawn less attention. For example, in the U.S., only about 5% lithium-ion batteries are actually recycled. With the continuously rising sales of electric vehicles and tech gadgets, guidelines about who should handle dangerous battery waste or how to do it are unclear.
For such reasons, engineers who work on designing advanced materials need to think about these issues now. Therefore, it becomes necessary for battery manufacturers to create pathways for sustainable production-to-recycling processes. This way, the processes would meet both consumer and environmental standards and reduce the risk of battery waste crisis in the next decade.
In fact, batteries pose greater recycling and disposal challenges than plastic, metal, and paper products. This is because batteries contain many chemical components that are both difficult and toxic to separate. However, some types of widely used batteries, predominantly lead-acid batteries, have relatively simple designs and characteristics that make them straightforward to recycle. And, the non- rechargeable ones can be disposed directly into landfills.