Recycling companies’ processes all look about the same to an outside observer. Batteries are disassembled and crushed up, and the resulting powder is dissolved before being subjected to various chemical techniques. But the details will be a key deciding factor in how much of the valuable materials recyclers can recover, and therefore how much money they can make.
Thanks to advances in these processes, the prospects for building a business around battery recycling have improved. The same dynamic is going on in solar panel recycling, where companies are working to recover silver and other expensive materials from the devices.
On a personal level, I think finding ways to recycle and repurpose materials in order to cut down on waste and destructive mining is a worthwhile goal in itself. But profitability is a surefire way to make battery recycling more likely to happen.
We’re still in the early days of battery recycling. China has funded and encouraged a massive industry, and now Europe and North America are catching up, with companies raising hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and building multibillion-dollar facilities.
For my deep dive into battery recycling, I took a look at one of these companies, Redwood Materials. If you want to learn more about what Redwood is trying to do, or the challenges the company is facing, check out my feature story that came out yesterday. I also got to speak with JB Straubel, founder of Redwood Materials and former chief technology officer at Tesla, about where he thinks the industry is headed. You can find an edited version of our conversation here.
Keeping up with Climate
Climeworks announced that it’s begun removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at its Orca plant in Iceland. (Wall Street Journal)
→ The plant may not be big, but this is a major step for carbon removal, which was one of our breakthrough technologies in 2022. (MIT Technology Review)
The western US is seeing record snowfall. Don’t expect it to make a dent in the drought, though. (Grid News)