(562b) Process Sustainability Evaluation for the Recovery of Metal from Spent Batteries

Authors: 
Ruiz-Mercado, G. J., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Gonzalez, M. A., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Smith, R. L., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Sustainable development has become a challenge with the importance of environmental, social and economic dimensions requiring the integration of multidisciplinary efforts to achieve quality of life enhancement without affecting the availability and function of ecological goods and services. Contributions to these efforts should be holistic, for example through the advancement of resource (material and energy) efficiency, improved material and product recycling, life cycle considerations, etc. An important system that should be studied and improved with the goal of sustainable development is batteries. Because of their environmental and efficiency benefits, lithium batteries have been chosen as the most standard portable source energy for many electronic devices. With the expansion of the lithium ion (Li-ion) battery market, especially transportation (automotive) applications require the minimization of production costs, material use, and energy demand. In addition, because of the high abundance of spent batteries and the serious environmental, health, and safety impacts associated with their disposal, the recovery of valuable metal from used batteries has gained high relevance. Therefore, developing and proposing sustainable solutions for battery recycling and metal recovery should be prioritized.

In other words, the development of sustainable processes needs quantitative evaluation approaches to describe and demonstrate when a particular process alternative is more sustainable. Hence, the GREENSCOPE tool provides this needed quantitative assessment of sustainability by employing a set of indicators capable of transmitting and translating process performance, feedstock, utility, equipment, and output information on sustainability measurement scales. These process indicators are designed to provide assessments in the areas of environment, efficiency (material), energy, and economics.

GREENSCOPE is presented in conjunction with a sustainability performance assessment for the recovery of metals from spent lithium ion batteries. A representative processes for metal recycling was designed and modeled. A process sustainability assessment was conducted to evaluate its technical benefits and to describe how well the process under study make use of mass and energy goods and services to recover a valuable material, achieve social and environmental needs, while maximizing their economic outcomes. Therefore, GREENSCOPE is proposed as a proficient tool for evaluating and designing recycling technologies for the recovery of valuable metals and identifying sustainable opportunities for improvements.