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Grinding technology could prevent exports of UK portable battery waste

Metal from portable battery waste could be recycled under a patented fine grinding technology that is in development.

The ReCharge project aims to extract valuable metal concentrates from the batteries and then recycle it in an economically viable way.

Currently the UK has no processing facilities for portable battery waste, according to International Innovative Technologies (IIT). All collected batteries have to be exported in order to be recycled.

In addition, despite the growing number of retail and household recycling collection points, several thousand tonnes of harmful battery waste are still going into landfill, it says.

The project is funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and managed by technology innovation consultancy the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI).

The technology developed by IIT grinds the ‘black mass’ solid inner cores of alkaline batteries into a powder form. The material is then suitable for treatment by different chemical and biological processes to extract the various metallic ions present, including zinc, carbon and manganese. 

Sandy Gunn, ReCharge project manager, said the ‘black mass’ was mostly shipped to Belgium, where the waste is burned in a highly energy intensive way. He added that a previous explosion at one site in Belgium and another in France have shown how dangerous the burning method is.

Gunn said the ReCharge grinding process was safer and “much lower energy”.

The project will last two years and is half-way through. Around 60% of the contents of portable batteries are recyclable metal and the technology is currently able to extract 30% of this. ReCharge aims to extract the full amount by the end of the project.

The UK battery collection rate target for 2013 is 30% so the technology could significantly help the drive for reuse of collected materials.



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