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Research project enables dramatic increase in battery recycling

9 March, 2016

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, Mistra, is investing eight million Swedish kronor in a Swedish project concerning recycling of batteries. The aim of the project, which is being run by industrial research institute Swerea MEFOS, is to develop an efficient process for recycling alkaline batteries.

The target is to recover 80 percent of the material in the batteries. This is considerably higher than the EU directive, which specifies 50 percent.

Sweden is the leading nation when it comes to collecting spent batteries, but currently lacks capacity for domestic upgrading of the recovered material. Instead, the batteries are exported and treated in costly and ineffective processes in Germany, Switzerland or France.

The new recycling concept will be adapted for the specific battery chemistry and meet requirements in terms of efficiency, environmental concerns and economical operation. The ambition is for the recovered and upgraded material to be utilized in industry for battery manufacturing.

"In this way a closed-loop material flow could be achieved with the aid of the new process. This will bridge the gap between the recycling industry and large-scale metallurgical industry. The challenge is to be able to recover not only zinc but also manganese," says Guozhu Ye, research manager at Swerea MEFOS.

A higher rate of recovery will help to conserve the Earth's diminishing ore reserves and reduce emissions arising from the processing of virgin metals. The project period is four years.

Project partners

  • Swerea MEFOS, a research institute with metallurgical pilot-plant facilities
  • Boliden, the world's fifth-largest producer of zinc metal
  • Iso Logistics, the Nordic region's leading company in battery sorting and recovery
  • Luleå University of Technology
  • Swerea IVF, a research institute for process engineering and materials sciences

International partners

  • Eramet, the world's leadingcompany for production of manganese dioxide for the battery industry
  • Fertiberia, a leading fertilizer producer in the Mediterranean region

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