Ars Technica: Lithium costs a lot of money—so why aren’t we recycling lithium batteries?

The nascent recycling industry needs to economically deconstruct lots of formats.

ℹ️ This was the 3rd most popular story for Ars Technica in April 2022 and received over 350,000 page views.

Written by Shel Evergreen. Published by Ars Technica April 19, 2022.

Electric vehicles, power tools, smartwatches—Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere now. However, the materials to make them are finite, and sourcing them has environmental, humanitarian, and economic implications. Recycling is key to addressing those, but a recent study shows most Lithium-ion batteries never get recycled.

Lithium and several other metals that make up these batteries are incredibly valuable. The cost of raw lithium is roughly seven times what you'd pay for the same weight in lead, but unlike lithium batteries, almost all lead-acid batteries get recycled. So there’s something beyond pure economics at play.

It turns out that there...

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