News, Technology, Western Australia

Batteries recycled into crop nutrients

A local recycler and supplier of battery materials is testing metal dust from old household batteries for use as crop nutrient supplements.

Lithium Australia NL has conducted trials to assess the use of zinc and manganese recovered from recycled alkaline batteries as micro-nutrient supplements in fertilisers.

The company recycled alkaline batteries from local pick-up points across the country. After sorting, the batteries were shredded to obtain the mixed metal dust, (MMD) which is sourced from the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Envirostream Australia at its used-battery recycling facility in Victoria.

Using the MMD, trials are conducted on pots of wheat in glasshouses. The dust contains high levels of zinc and manganese with minor amounts of graphite and potassium. Zinc and manganese are important constituents of fertiliser micro-nutrients. In the initial round of trials, the company grew wheat in a variety of controlled scenarios.

The scenarios included using the recycled zinc and manganese separately as fertiliser sulphates, using a combination of both, and growing wheat without any fertiliser micronutrients.

The company said that the results were encouraging enough for it to commit to the next stage of assessment.

” Recycling all the metals within spent batteries is something that’s rarely done effectively, which is why it remains a target for the company. We have not limited ourselves to recycling only lithium-ion batteries but, rather, have included alkaline batteries in a bid to eliminate all such items from landfill,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said in a statement.

In 2019, Australia’s Battery Stewardship Council estimated that, at the end of their useful life, 97% of those batteries were disposed of in municipal waste streams and reported to landfill.”