Demand and use of lithium-ion batteries is continuing to increase exponentially, and managing them at the end of their life cycle is a major and growing concern for waste aggregators and city officials alike.   To offer expertise and as an industry thought leader, ABTC’s chief operating officer Andrés Meza was invited to this year’s WasteExpo, North America’s largest solid waste, recycling, organics, and sustainability gathering of waste managers.  In a Q&A session, led by Suzie Boxman with the Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF), Meza spoke about the future of battery recycling and the critical supply chain in the U.S., providing perspective on the critical topics of safety, reverse logistics and choosing credible battery recycling companies. 

The session, titled “End-of-Life Challenges for Lithium-ion Batteries”, provided a valuable opportunity to engage in a robust dialogue about several interfacing topics including: 

  • Recycling battery metals in the U.S. to support increased national security, diminished foreign reliance on battery metals, and new energy jobs creation 
  • Battery recycling trends in the U.S. 
  • Safety and recyclability of lithium-ion batteries  
  • Identification of credible battery recycling companies and deciphering reputational risks of others 
  • Lithium-ion battery waste classifications, labeling, and regulations 

Addressing questions from municipalities and waste haulers present, Meza provided advice on selecting a lithium-ion battery recycler, “One thing that waste managers can do is to perform due diligence and seek to connect end-of-life batteries with responsible domestic recycling services. By ensuring that these materials end up in the hands of battery material experts, we can reduce fire risk, environmental impact in processing, and keep valuable critical materials within the United States’ domestic supply chain.” 

Meza further recommended consulting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s guidance for evaluating lithium-ion battery recycling, detailing some of critical information to gather in the evaluation process:  

  • Learn the basics and conduct general due diligence  
  • Understand the recycling process and materials accepted  
  • Ask about what happens to recycled material after it is processed  
  • Note any supply partnerships the recycler is publicly working with 
  • Take the time to visit a lithium-ion battery recycling facility 
  • Verify and validate through onsite evaluation, looking at factors such as environmental compliance and environmental liability insurance 

The safe handling and transport of lithium-ion batteries was also a topic discussed at length in the session. “At ABTC, we believe that a critical aspect for the appropriate handling of end-of-life lithium-ion batteries – in a way that limits environmental impact, enhances safety, and advances our goal of establishing a circular economy for critical minerals – is education: amongst consumers and the waste industry alike,” shared Meza. “If nothing else is taken from this discussion, the biggest takeaways for consumer and waste management safety are proper disposal, and that when disposing of a battery, to do so with the lowest state of charge possible.” 

For proper disposal of a lithium-ion battery:  

  • Never put a lithium-ion battery in the curbside recycling or trash – they need to be properly recycled at a certified lithium-ion battery recycler 
  • If you’re going to recycle a battery, place tape over the battery terminals to protect them from rubbing against the terminals of another battery 
  • To find a lithium-ion battery recycling location near you, please visit https://www.call2recycle.org/locator/.  

“When managed properly, lithium-ion batteries fires and dangers can be prevented,” said Meza. “Once we understand and mitigate for risk factors, we are able to maintain safer facilities for the sake of both our employees and our environment, while ensuring that these materials are able to be processed and reused at the end of their lifecycle. ” 

The Annual WasteExpo, hosted by Waste360, provides over 13,500 participants with the opportunity to gather, share ideas, and learn about the latest technological innovations. It is the leading information, event, commerce and education provider to the solid waste, recycling, organics and sustainable communities and plays a critical role in connecting industry professionals worldwide. Over its 50+ years of operation, WasteExpo has evolved to make sustainability a major topic and priority.  Next year’s WasteExpo will take place May 5 –8, 2025 in Las Vegas, Nevada.   

To learn more about choosing a responsible lithium-ion battery recycler, check out this guide by the U.S. Enviornmental Protection Agency, or reach out to American Battery Technology Company at info@batterymetals.com.