A new US bill would provide grants to support recycling batteries

Tesla's newest product "Powerwall" is unveiled on stage in Hawthorne, Calif., Thursday, April 30, 2015. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is trying to steer his electric car company's battery technology into homes and businesses as part of an elaborate plan to reshape the power grid with millions of small power plants made of solar panels on roofs and batteries in garages. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Senator Angus King (I-ME) introduced the Battery and Critical Mineral Recycling Act of 2020 this month. The groundbreaking bill aims, as it simply states, “to support the reuse and recycling of batteries and critical minerals, and for other purposes.”

What the battery bill proposes

According to King’s website, the legislation aims to incentivize, through grant programs, the recycling of rechargeable and electrochemical batteries in the US to meet green energy needs and decrease mineral imports.

The bill calls for $150 million over the next five years to support innovative research into recycling and to establish a US-wide collection system that can harvest old batteries from anything that — well, uses batteries.

King, who is a founding member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, said:

Critical minerals like lithium and cobalt are vital to developing clean energy technology — and the good news here is that we have these materials on hand already, from old phone and computer batteries in the desk drawers of American homes and offices.

Why pay the economic and environmental cost of importing these minerals from countries like China, when we could meet a large portion of our need by simply encouraging the American people to turn in their old batteries to be recycled back into the industry?

This act is a key step toward reducing waste, developing clean energy technology, and revolutionizing the way we produce and utilize critical minerals.

Electrek’s Take

This is a great incentive: Americans must recycle what they already have. In fact, it’s crucial. Lithium-ion batteries are a vital part of moving into emissions-free energy, but we can’t then start to pollute by discarding all those batteries — and the metals within them — when they stop working.

We have to have a plan for the full cycle of green-energy life — not a growing mountain of discarded batteries. And as a recent study, published in February in the journal Science Advances pointed out, our metals supply is finite, and nor do we want to spur a dirty mining boom.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at michelle@9to5mac.com. Check out her personal blog.