Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Electric Vehicle Batteries Surprising New Source of 'Forever Chemical' Pollution (businessinsider.com)
28 points by hammock 7 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 46 comments

This does not surprise me, I doubt the impact is great right now, but in 5 or 10 years I tend to think it will be. To dispose of regular batteries, like AA, you are suppose to drop them off to a recycle place. EV Batteries are much larger and contain more heavy metals.

Really, we (people) are doing all we can to avoid doing anything real about Climate Change. Many do something, but not to the point were it lessens how you live.

We really need to push Mass Transit, Walking, Bicycling and other forms of transport. The only real draw back is the loss of some convenience. But 140 years ago, people lived OK without Autos.

It's actually a better way to live.

I don't know how to express the freedom and joy that comes from having your kid say "I'm biking to my friend's house!" instead of "Can you drive me to my friend's house?".

Not to mention that I made a lot of my current friends by just meeting them while walking around town.

And cities designed for cars aren't even easier to get around, because cars may be ten times faster than walking, but once you add all the parking, roads, shoulders, etc. to make it easier to drive, everything is ten times farther apart.

I really wish it were easier to convey that a low-car life is a much higher quality of life.

It’s illegal to dispose of your EV battery in such a way that it ends up in landfill. At least in the EU. It’s also very dumb as companies would me missing out on a lot of money by processing those batteries for their precious components.

Most of the lithium ion waste comes from consumer electronics still, not EV. Things like laptops and phones being tossed, instead of taken to appropriate recycling facilities. I think this will change in time as it becomes more normalized to do so, maybe even a dedicated “electronics collection pickup” recycling program.

Here in Switzerland all shops selling electronics must also take back any used electronics you might bring to them. A smaller shop (of which there are less and less) might be more reluctant to take your scrap but any chain won't ask any questions. So there is a possibility, if only people would also use it enough...

I have never owned a car (lived in urban areas all my adult life) and I find that when I visit my parents in their suburban home, everything is less convenient when driving is involved.

Part of me lives in a walk-able city because I'm incapable of buying everything I need to make dinner in one go at a grocery store. I inevitably have to run down the block to grab some random thing I didn't realize we were out of. Only slightly kidding -- maybe I'd learn if it took 15 minutes in a car instead of 45 seconds on foot though.

> We really need to push Mass Transit, Walking, Bicycling and other forms of transport. The only real draw back is the loss of some convenience. But 140 years ago, people lived OK without Autos.

It’s the norm for most young/lower income people in a lot of Europe’s urban areas, although cars are still ubiquitous. Most people with the means will opt for a car because of that convenience though. Point being it’s absolutely possible for cars to become a luxury.

I think we need to push them in smart ways. Just pushing mass transit, walking, or biking on people is met with an opposite reaction. But if we targeted specific use cases we could probably build it like a snowball.

Transit is plagued with having to serve everyone so it serves no one issue.

Transit serves billions of people all over the world.

> We really need to push Mass Transit,

I hope we get to take turns at least.

140 years ago very few people went more than 40 miles from where they were born too :p

> The study said only about 5% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled, and by 2040, there could be some 8 million tons of lithium-ion battery waste.

That can't be true?

The first bit is a well known factoid that gets quoted out of context.

Here's an article discussing it:


> It is a truth universally acknowledged that only 5% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled, with the rest going to landfill. This claim is, however, false. It has been traced back to a report written in 2011 by Friends of the Earth, which divided volumes of collection by volumes of manufacturing at the time.

Love the chain of sources: Business Insider article is about this paper


which for that factoid links to


which for that just links to a BBC article with a doctor saying the "value everyone quotes is about"


The 2011 part is what makes this outstanding, the iphone had been released only 4 years before; the majority of lithium ion we were using was likely laptop batteries and cell phones that lasted a week on a small battery.

If anything, i would expect that recycling would become more commonplace with the larger scale of EV batteries, Electric bicycle batteries, and power stations.

And the key part is, the advantage of lithium ion is that the same sized battery provies 10x as many charges (and more energy density) than its predecessors NIMH or NICD)

Example #4,928,422,857 of people's inability to think about rapidly changing quantities.

Today the vast majority of lithium-ion batteries come out of phones and laptops, and those are generally too small and annoyingly packaged to recycle economically.

Battery packs from cars are a different matter and there are already pilot projects that are recycling them. I think in the future these projects will grow as the economics become more favorable. They're basically just mining the materials out of an extremely rich deposit.

It's not something I've personally verified but I read a while back that a lot of EV batteries specifically before being recycled get upcycled in storage products for homes and power grids, where raw capacity isn't as important and better management and cooling than is possible in cars greatly mitigate further degradation.

Yes. This is the big reason the recycle rates are currently fairly low, there just isn't much to recycle yet thanks to the longevity of EVs and the relatively healthy secondary market.


I've been somewhat optimistic about decarbonization via electrification in the past few years. Despite the very vocal opponents online we have been installing increasing amounts of solar and wind generation each year, and EVs are getting up near the tops of sales charts. Battery storage is starting to ramp the way solar did and I'm hopeful that in a few years we will be seeing a serious reduction in CO2 emissions.

Already we are seeing industry pushback with astroturf campaigns complaining that the woke are stealing food from trees. That's how you know people are making a difference.

Most lithium-ion batteries currently being thrown out are phone batteries, and those aren't recycled at a great rate.

Car batteries aren't being thrown out or recycled in large quantities yet, they're lasting a lot longer than people expected.

> Most lithium-ion batteries currently being thrown out are phone batterie

Source? My guess for number of lithium batteries being thrown away would be for vapes.

It's wild to me that disposable vapes use rechargeable lithium ion batteries. Presumably it's because it's cost effective?

Rechargeable means they can save a bit of money on the size of the battery, among other things.

It's also the case that you don't throw out a car. Car batteries (that is, the ones that ICE vehicles use) have an incredible rate of recycling. It's not like you're going to throw an EV in the crusher without taking the battery out first, and if you don't recycle the battery...what the heck are you going to do with it?

I wouldn't be surprised if currently only a small number of batteries are recycled. I would be extremely surprised if the same is true in ten years.

What percentage of lithium iron batteries that have crossed your desk ended up recycled?

All? It's not like you can throw them in the trash, so where else would I bring them except to the battery recycling collection point?

You intended for them to be recycled, but just because you dropped it at a recycling depot or disposal doesn't mean they got recycled.

There are countless stories and studies showing that only a fraction of recyclable materials actually make it through recycling - it's kind of an E for Effort state for anything but glass and metal :(

In Montreal, the Eco Centre accepts batteries and then “sends them to a recycler”

It’s almost impossible to know what that actually means. if you look up a local company like li-cycle all they do is grind up the batteries into a powder, which is then sold to off takers and licycles case these off takers, actually only extract, nickel and cobalt from the batteries. This is the tip of the iceberg. There’s no way to know what actually happens to your battery after it is given to the city. Notably, plastic recycling is fake, and my city just makes a giant pile of plastic separate from the giant pile of garbage.

> Notably, plastic recycling is fake, and my city just makes a giant pile of plastic separate from the giant pile of garbage.

For some measures of "fake". The German PET bottle deposit scheme works relatively well, as the material collected is pure PET with very little contamination.

For pretty much every other type of plastic, "recycling" usually means thermal use, aka burning it for district heating.

That actually sounds about right

The amount of valuable materials in a battery pack is actually quite small.

It's a legitimate concern obviously because of the scale of the problem

But come on this is business insider, a click bait farm, and likely this a FUD shadow campaign like windmill blades, bird deaths, and the like.

This is more fear mongering, a giant nothing burger. There will be huge advantages to recycling these batteries as the technologies come out, and dealing with the PFAS will be on the recycler.

Oh, so you mean it'll be shipped out to the nearest 3rd-world country for recycling, AKA burning in open pits. Someone else's problem for sure.

Edit: related example https://www.utoronto.ca/news/more-developed-countries-dumpin...

This amounts to "Don't worry, mommy and daddy will take care of it." It is not a serious argument.

Did you even read the article? The contaminants are found around the battery manufacturing plant. Unrelated to the recycling that is never gonna happen anyway

> There will be

> will be on the recycler

Given the current state of recycling in general, I doubt this is a nothing burger.

Lead-acid batteries have very good recycling rates.

There is a large cash deposit for recycling them, not so with lithium

Yes, that is because in many places it is a law, plus recycling them is a money making industry.

I predict that it will be the same for lithium in the near future.

Based on what? Where are the economics to back that feeling up?

The first pilot plants are being built, e.g. https://electrek.co/2023/03/02/tesla-cofounders-redwood-show...

Redwood Materials: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redwood_Materials :

> In March 2023 Redwood claimed to have recovered more than 95% of important metals (incl. lithium, cobalt, nickel and copper) from 500,000 lb (230,000 kg) of old NiMH and Li-Ion packs. [10]

That's without $10K humanoid robots sorting through electronics and removing batteries IIUC.

Recovering rare earths from electronics waste should be even more profitable now. Just look at Copenhill; how many inputs and how many outputs?

"Turning waste into gold" (2024) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/02/240229124612.h... :

> Researchers have recovered gold from electronic waste. Their highly sustainable new method is based on a protein fibril sponge, which the scientists derive from whey, a food industry byproduct. ETH Zurich researchers have recovered the precious metal from electronic waste.

"[Star-shaped] Gold nanoparticles kill cancer – but not as thought" (2024) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=40819864

Specifically, 99%.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact