Life cycle comparison of industrial-scale lithium-ion battery recycling and mining supply chains

03 October 2023, Version 4
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Recycling lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) can supplement existing supplies of critical materials and improve the environmental sustainability of LIB supply chains. In this work, environmental impacts (greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, energy consumption) of industrial-scale production of battery-grade cathode materials from used LIBs are compared to the environmental impacts of conventional mining supply chains. Refining mixed-stream LIBs into battery-grade materials reduces these environmental impacts by at least 59%. Recycling batteries to mixed metal products instead of discrete salts further reduces environmental impacts. Electricity consumption is identified as the principal contributor to all LIB recycling environmental impacts, and different electricity sources can change greenhouse gas emissions up to eight times. Supply chain steps that precede refinement (material extraction and transport) contribute marginally to the environmental impacts of circular LIB supply chains (<5%), but are more significant in conventional supply chains (31%). This analysis disaggregates conventional and circular steps based on material extraction, transport, and industrial refinement operations; provides important insights for advancing sustainable LIB supply chains; and informs optimization of industrial-scale environmental impacts for emerging battery recycling efforts.


circular economy
critical materials
life cycle assessment
reductive calcination


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Comment number 1, Theresa Bauer: Apr 09, 2024, 08:24

Is there any way to access the Supplementary Information for the working paper? Thanks in advance!