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Lithium batteries have developed over the past 30 years to become one of the most promising new battery systems. Primary and secondary lithium batteries have gained widespread use in communications, portable tools, military devices, and industry. The next five to ten years will continue to show heavy lithium battery growth in standard uses as well as development into new applications such as electric and hybrid electric vehicles.

Although lithium batteries have been shown to be safe in many applications, there are many conditions that will increase the hazards. These hazards can be overcome during recycling by any commercial facility through diligent continuous review of handling and processing. The successful facility must not allow recycling, storage, handling, and transportation procedures to become routine. These procedures must be continually revised and checked to verify accuracy and efficiency. Once a recycling facility considers their processes as perfect and without flaw, an accident or incident becomes possible.

Each type of lithium battery requires slightly different processing/handling. The specific reasons for differing processes may be due to the environmental concerns of the materials within the batteries, the size of the batteries, the reactivity of the batteries, safety concerns, differing states of charge of the batteries, and/or different materials to be recovered. An analysis of each battery type should be performed and the results should be reviewed for chemical compatibility of the process, flammability, toxicity, reactivity, safety, and for environmental concerns.

The recycling of lithium batteries regardless of size or chemistry is a complicated process. There have been many incidents involving these high-energy batteries and the simplest most obscure aspects of the procedure usually cause these incidents. Toxco Inc., to date, is one of the oldest and most successful lithium battery recycling companies in the world. Although many companies recycle some types or sizes of lithium batteries recovering one or two materials from the battery, Toxco Inc.

By recycling our natural resources we protcct the land, water, and all living things. This fish is estimated to be 75 years old. Left to right: Don Nutini (Toxco Trail BC Mcchanical Supervisor), Terry Adams (President of Toxco), David Miller (VP Toxco), and Doug Fultz (This 8.5 foot Sturgeon was released immediately after the photo.)

has the only process in the world that recovers case metals, lithium, and cobalt (if present) from any type or size of primary or secondary lithium battery. Recycling lithium and all other batteries is quickly becoming a necessity. As the natural resources of the Earth become scarcer, reutilization of materials will be required. As landfills are used and space becomes limited conservation of this space is required. As ground water, soil, and the air become more contaminated alternatives to landfills and incinerators must be developed. Our sons/daughters and their sons/daughters will appreciate the progress our generation made to overcome recycling obstacles in an effort to safeguard their future well being.

Used Battery Collection and Recycling G. Pistoia, J.-P. Wiaux and S.P. Wolsky (Editors) © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

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