Its subsidiary and recycling division, Envirostream, which has used spent alkaline batteries as a fertiliser micronutrient, filed a patent with IP Australia describing the processes for the separation of electrode materials from alkaline batteries.
Dead batteries giving life
Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said the filing is an important step in the company’s plan to ensure an ethical supply of energy metals to the battery industry by creating a circular battery economy that enhances both sustainability and resource security.
“The ability to add value to spent alkaline batteries is a further demonstration of Envirostream's leading edge in the field of battery recycling,” he said.
“A timely technical advance, it coincides with the introduction of the national battery stewardship scheme, designed to divert end-of-life batteries from landfill, and will enhance the value of the spent alkaline batteries available for recycling.”
The national battery stewardship scheme, due to be launched in January next year, is an initiative led by Australia’s battery industry to provide free recycling to consumers across Australia.
It has the backing of leading battery producers such as Duracell and Energizer, as well as major retailers Coles and Woolworths, who will fund recycling and provide collection services for end-of-life batteries.
Spent batteries as fertiliser
Envirostream commenced an expanded field trial program in June, following successful trials last year using recycled alkaline battery material as a fertiliser micronutrient.
The initial trials demonstrated successful uptake of micronutrients in a field setting; analysis of the harvested grain showed a statistically significant trend for manganese uptake over both the control (no fertiliser) and commercially available treatments used for the trial.
The expanded program is targeting manganese-deficient soil types and is assessing two products based on positive outcomes of the process development for the separation of manganese from single-use alkaline batteries.
Transforming the battery industry
Lithium Australia’s plan for a circular battery economy that enhances energy and resource security involves reprocessing spent lithium-ion batteries to create new ones; Lithium Australia operates Australia’s only fully integrated, mixed-battery recycling business.
The company has rationalised its portfolio of lithium projects and alliances and is now researching and developing proprietary extraction processes for the conversion of all lithium silicates (including mine waste), and of unused fines from spodumene processing, to lithium chemicals, which will be used to produce advanced battery cathode materials for the battery industry globally.
Lithium Australia was recently admitted to the Global Battery Alliance, which aims to accelerate the deployment of batteries worldwide and lower barriers to a circular battery economy.
It also took a 30% stake in Charger Metals NL (ASX:CHR), which is planning to undertake a SkyTEM aerial electromagnetic survey next month on its Coates nickel-copper-cobalt-platinum group elements (PGE) project near Perth in Western Australia.
- Daniel Paproth