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Should Your City Be Recycling Electric Car Batteries?

Is it time for your city to start recycling electric car batteries? As more residents decide to invest in hybrid and fully electric vehicles – the lingering issue of what to do with toxic lithium batteries grows. Today we explore the importance of EV battery recycling in your municipality.

According to Reuters, less than 1% of all cars on US roads are electric vehicles.

While this number seems negligible, it still amounts to about 2.5 million electric cars currently in use. And these electric vehicles have been around now for decades – just long enough for batteries to start packing up.

As more EV batteries lose capacity and die, they’ll need to be safely reused or recycled. Here is why your municipality should consider investing in an EV battery recycling program.

#1: Lithium-Ion Batteries are Toxic

No two electric car battery models are alike, which means the risk varies when recycling different car brands. They do share a common risk though – and that’s the hazardous nature of their cells. Inside lithium-ion batteries are heavy metals, toxic gasses, and a series of highly combustible parts.

This makes recycling them extremely tricky, and incredibly dangerous. Not only are these electric batteries poisonous, if broken-down incorrectly they can leach into the ground – poisoning water and food supplies. This is something all municipalities should prepare for and avoid at all costs.

#2: Electric Car Batteries Cause Fires

If you’re in a State that suffers from runaway fires, this kind of recycling program needs to be a priority. When residents dispose of their EV batteries through their curbside recycling program or in their municipal waste – it results in landfill fires.

recycling electric car batteries


The Environmental Protection Agency recently stated that lithium-ion batteries caused as many as 68 fires in waste facilities in 2019 alone. When residents aren’t sure where to dispose of their EV batteries, this could lead to many ending up in local landfills, increasing the risk of fires.

#3: A Potential Revenue Stream

On the bright side recycling electric car batteries has some benefits. Every battery comes with a series of high value metals that can be collected post-use and recycled for sale.

Metals found in battery cathodes (like cobalt and nickel) can provide your municipality with a long-term revenue stream. In an ever-dwindling budgetary environment this sort of recycling program may be the infusion of funds your municipality needs to keep this program and others like it alive.

#4: Increase Battery Recycling Education

According to CalEPA, there are only 5 operating EV battery recycling plants in the US right now. That means municipalities are stockpiling these lithium-ion batteries, waiting for centers to be built or better recycling solutions to spring into action.

Charging electric car battery


Is your municipality educating your residents about EV battery recycling? If not, there’s a good chance many of these batteries will end up causing havoc in your local landfills. If you don’t yet have a center, at least have a monitored stockpile area.

Then educate your residents on where to drop off their old EV batteries. At best, you’ll benefit from metal recovery when the time comes and drastically reduce the environmental impact of leaching toxins into local soils. At worst, you’ll have a short-term expense on your hands.

#5: Keep Local Electric Cars Green

As a city planner, it’s your responsibility to look to the future of sustainability in your city. That means supporting the shift from fossil fuels to electric technology. Ultimately to achieve this feat your municipality must work to find recycling solutions for these batteries that are sustainable.

The better your battery recycling programs are, the greener electric cars are for your area. When you let your residents know that they have a way to properly recycle their EV batteries, more residents will feel encouraged to make the leap. Invest in research programs to help your city manage the influx of EV batteries coming your way.

electric battery refueling


Experts agree that the only way to deal with electric battery recycling in the future is by encouraging local municipalities to open battery recycling centers. It will lower transport costs, reduce fire risk, and speed up the process of recovery.

Host a meeting this week to discuss what your teams are doing to educate and invest in recycling electric car batteries. During the meeting, talk about the toxic nature of batteries, the potential fire hazards, and revenue creation.

Mention a growing need for widespread education – so that your residents understand what your local municipality is doing to combat EV battery disposal. Even if you can’t directly recycle these materials right now, planning now will prevent disaster from creeping up on you.

So, the answer is yes: your municipality should absolutely be recycling electric car batteries or planning for it in the near future.

Are EV batteries on your agenda this year?