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ReCharge Project concludes with promising results

The UK Battery Waste Regulations now in force are increasing the volume of battery waste required to be recycled.

The UK has no processing facilities for non-lead acid portable battery waste and all collected non-lead waste batteries are currently exported for recycling. An urgent solution is required as existing regulations require greater battery collection from consumers. The increasing collection rate will reduce the several thousand tonnes of potentially harmful battery waste that are presently going to landfill, and an economically viable process is required to recycle these valuable materials and reduce landfill.

ReCharge is a Technology Strategy Board funded project that set out to extract valuable metals from portable batteries, using this untapped waste stream as a resource and decreasing the amount of Zinc, Manganese, Nickel and other metals presently going to landfill or being exported as waste.

The project consortium has been led by us to develop a range of metal recovery processes from various waste sources. The initial proposal and development work was carried out by the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), the UK’s leading provider for technology development in Industrial Biotechnology and Biorefining. These activities were supported by G&P Batteries as leading battery collection company and International Innovation Technology Ltd who have developed novel grinding and classification technologies.

The project established a cost-effective and environmentally sound method of processing this waste stream, evaluating novel industrial biotechnology processes against chemical routes to extract and concentrate the metals contained within various portable battery types.

The project initially investigated cultivating and optimising the growth of specialist microorganisms which could recover the metals available through bioleaching. The final process developed can extract high purity (99.9%) metal oxides from high metal content wastes which are competitive with current technologies as it is less energy intensive. The metals recovered can then be re-used in various target industries.

The outcome of the project resulted in a complex multistage process to recover the metals being developed and undertaken to pilot scale to produce commercial quality samples of Zinc Oxide for testing by potential customers. A capital costing of the full process has been developed to enable any company looking to make a business case for building a battery processing facility.

We are very encouraged by the results we’ve had at the conclusion of the project. The whole process is now available to be used by partners or third parties wanting to invest in the technologies that the consortium have developed. CPI is currently in the process of attempting to secure a second round of funding to build on the work we’ve already completed.

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