Analytical Review of Global and Regional Practices

Recycling and Reuse of Lithium Batteries in Latin America and the Caribbean

Vorschaubild der PDF-Datei

The increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries (LIB), associated to energy storage for electric vehicles, electronics and renewable energy, has raised concerns about their proper disposal, recycling and end-of-life management (EoL). Currently, only half of all LIB reaching end-of-life globally are recycled, with the rest being disposed of. LIB are considered hazardous  waste due to their content of hazardous substances, as well as flammable electrolytes. Unsound handling and disposal can lead to environmental pollution and fires. Effective and safe end-of-life management, lifetime extension, and material recovery are urgently needed, especially in those countries where best practices for disposal and recycling have not yet been  implemented.

The demand for lithium-ion batteries is growing in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) due to increase in renewable energy generation and the uptake of electric vehicles. The region has ambitious targets for climate change mitigation and renewable energy generation, with solar and wind energy generation expected to increase by 550% by 2030 (with  respect to 2015 levels). The use of battery-based storage systems is crucial to achieving these targets.

The region holds 67% of global lithium reserves. While mining is an important economic factor in some areas of the region, it also has impacts on the environment and local communities1. In that situation, a stronger focus on promoting reuse and recycling of used  lithium-ion batteries (ULIB) can achieve both, more local value addition and resource recovery from end-of-life devices, as well as a reduced need to exploit mineral deposits.

The LAC region lacks a strong regulatory framework for the proper management of used and end-of-life lithium-ion batteries, which creates challenges for developing sound end-of-life  management solutions. While such policy gaps must be closed in the near future, there is also a need to develop a regional approach aimed at improving capacities, facilitating transboundary movement of batteries and promoting investments for more efficient used lithium-ion battery (ULIB) collection, recycling, and reuse. This regional approach is particularly  important for countries of limited size that will continue to lack sufficient end-of-life battery volumes to justify investments in their own end-of-life management capacities.