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Environmental Impacts of Battery Recycling

What are the most significant environmental impacts of battery recycling?
Blue recycling container
© Unsplash

As we move towards a more sustainable future, it is crucial to look closely at all aspects of the supply chain and resource management.

Lithium-ion batteries are the most commonly used battery type used, and recycling lithium-ion batteries reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and results in considerable savings of natural resources compared to landfill.

This article will primarily:

  • describe the impact of battery recycling
  • describe the benefits of battery recycling.

How can everyone benefit from battery recycling?

In the chart below you will find a succinct collection of illustrative examples that highlight the beneficial results of battery recycling.

A diagram with a recycling logo in the middle, showing the different benefits of battery recycling.Click to expand

General benefits of battery recycling. PEM Motion (2022)

Battery recycling offers a wide range of benefits to everyone involved, from individuals to businesses and the environment. By participating in battery recycling efforts, everyone can contribute to a more sustainable and resource-efficient world.

Keeps harmful chemicals out of the environment

  • One of the main benefits of battery recycling is that it keeps the chemicals in batteries out of the environment.
  • When batteries are disposed of in landfills, toxic chemicals and metals leach into the soil and groundwater.
  • The lead, cadmium, and lithium contained in batteries are some of the worst environmental pollutants, and disposing of them in a landfill introduces them into the environment.

Conserves non-renewable resources

  • Batteries are made from non-renewable natural resources. Copper, lithium, silver, mercury, and cobalt are all non-renewable resources needed to make batteries.
  • In addition, some of the resources used in batteries are scarce.
  • If we are to increase the supply of lithium by 2030 and continue the EV revolution, recycling is urgently needed.

A man with his personal protection equipment, gathering aroung batteries out from a production process. Battery production. Inside Climate News (2022)

Reduces landfill waste

  • Batteries are often replaced before they’re fully used. Too many of these batteries end up in landfill.
  • The waste of lithium-ion batteries means that as we move towards EVs, we’re using up our lithium reserves before we have even started the transition.

Complies with federal laws

  • Federal laws in some countries require sealed lead-acid (Pb) and nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries to be recycled rather than dumped in landfills.
  • The problem with small batteries is that they are easy to throw away.
  • Many companies offer a service to recycle batteries when you return them, and some landfill sites have battery recycling schemes.

A pile of raw materials used in lithium-ion battery production Raw material used in lithium-ion battery production. E-Mobility Engineering (n.d.)

Improves human health

  • Heavy metals are toxic and harmful in your home, in the environment, in manufacturing plants, and in the mines where they’re extracted.
  • The more we have to mine and process these raw materials, such as mercury and lithium, the greater the toll they take on human health and communities from start to finish.
  • Worse, when we throw batteries away and allow them to leak into the soil and water, we contaminate the resources we need to survive with heavy metals and acids.

Reduces the cost of new batteries

  • As with all recyclable items, new materials made from recovered materials cost less than those made from virgin materials.
  • It is much cheaper to recover materials than to mine, transport, and refine new materials.
  • Furthermore, if materials recyclers are located near factories, there are minimal transport costs associated with reusing the materials.

A box with a bunch of lithium-ion batteries in size AA. Battery recycling. Recycling Bins (2017)


As the recycling industry is still in its infancy, the industry has yet to realize the best recycling process for the environment. There are many benefits in battery recycling to the long run go far beyond the immediate protection of the environment.

Battery recycling also facilitates the development of advanced technologies and processes, driving innovation and efficiency gains in the recycling industry. As the industry develops, employment opportunities increase, stimulating economic growth and supporting local communities.

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