Environmental and Social Benefits of Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling


As there is an increasing preference for EVs and renewable energy, there is a rise in demand for lithium-ion batteries too. With the surge in electric transportation, battery recycling is also gaining prominence in India. Previously, the Battery (Management and Handling) Rules, 2001 oversaw the disposal of lead-acid batteries. However, it needed to address batteries like lithium-ion used in electric vehicles.

The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MOEFCC) in India introduced a Battery Waste Management Rules draft in February 2020. After industry feedback, the Rules were updated, and the new draft was released on August 24th, 2022.

These rules apply to:

  • Producers, dealers, consumers, and entities involved in collection, segregation, transportation, refurbishment, and recycling of waste battery.
  • All types of batteries regardless of chemistry, shape, volume, weight, material composition and use.


Key points of battery-waste management rules-2022

  • Reducing reliance on raw materials: The rules prescribe incorporating a specified number of recycled materials in producing new batteries, thereby lessening the reliance on virgin resources, and conserving natural materials.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): The rules clearly mandate that the collecting, recycling, and refurbishing of used batteries is the responsibility of battery manufacturers, including importers. They are also responsible for recycling waste materials to make new batteries. According to the EPR mandate, disposal of waste batteries in landfills or incineration is strictly prohibited. Waste batteries must be collected and sent for recycling/refurbishment. To meet the EPR guidelines, producers can engage themselves or authorise any other entity for collection, recycling, or refurbishment of waste batteries.
  • Principle of “Polluter pays”: Non-compliance with Extended Producer Responsibility targets and obligations, as outlined in the rules, will result in the imposition of environmental compensation to hold accountable those who fall short of their responsibilities.
  • Environmental compensation fund: The funds accrued through environmental compensation will be channelled towards collecting, refurbishing, and recycling waste batteries that have yet to be responsibly managed or processed.
  • Online registration: The rule has provisioned for the establishment of a mechanism and centralised web platform for the exchange of EPR certificates between producers and recyclers/refurbishers. Online registration, reporting, auditing, and establishing a monitoring committee will ensure compliance with the rules and address any challenges during implementation.

Cost effective recycling: How and why

Recycling of batteries plays a vital role in promoting environmental sustainability and is more cost-effective because: 

  • Disassembling old batteries to reuse their parts is less expensive than developing new ones.
  • Lithium-ion batteries contain valuable resources like lithium, cobalt, and nickel. By recycling these batteries, we reduce the need for mining, which helps safeguard the environment and preserve critical forest areas and animal habitats.
  • Recycling batteries reduces pollution and energy used in making new ones. For example: Lithium is produced mainly from salt flats or underground brine reservoirs. The process of extracting lithium involves evaporating water to leave behind a lithium-rich solution. However, this process leads to rapid depletion of groundwater, which can deprive local communities of drinking water and impact farming.
  • If lithium batteries are not disposed of correctly or left in landfills, the materials in the batteries can seep into the soil and water, polluting them. Recycling ensures these harmful materials are dealt with safely, preventing potential environmental and community harm.
  • Using old electric car batteries for other things like storing energy can cover up to 65% of the needs for stationary storage. In about ten years, using old batteries could be much cheaper, from 30% to 70%, compared to buying new ones.

Challenges in battery recycling

  • Inadequate collection infrastructure, especially in specific regions or for certain battery types linked to extraction centres, poses hurdles to effective collection and recycling.
  • Diverse Lithium-ion battery types with distinct designs make establishing recycling centres capable of handling the full range currently in use challenging.
  • EV-targeted Li-ion batteries tend to be large and feature increasingly voluminous packs, making disassembly more complex and potentially riskier.
  • Except for cobalt and nickel, salvaging most other materials is costlier than direct mining, making recycling challenging to meet demand.
  • Accurate identification and sorting of various battery chemistries and types necessitate advanced technologies and expertise.
  • The current supply of lithium-ion batteries from mobiles and laptops must be increased to support large-scale recycling facilities. Additionally, since EVs have only been in the market for the last 4-6 years, most batteries have yet to reach their recycling stage.

Despite the challenges, recycling lithium-ion batteries promotes resource independence, strengthens supply chain security, reduces resource extraction's human effort, and fosters social sustainability. 

  • Job growth and economic boost: Recycling creates jobs at different levels, enhancing the economy and community involvement.
  • Community development: Recycling centres engage local communities, promoting responsible waste management and environmental preservation.
  • Accessible, affordable energy: Recycled battery materials provide cost-effective energy solutions for remote areas, improving the quality of life.


The takeaway

 As consumers, choosing responsible disposal options and supporting recycling initiatives safeguards our environment and contribute to the broader movement towards sustainable mobility. Together, we can power a future where the legacy of our choices is one of renewal and resilience.