- Interstate Batteries has signed an agreement with Aqua Metals Inc. to supply more than 1 million automotive and other lead-acid batteries as feedstock for a new electrochemical lead recycling technology. Interstate is also making a $10 million investment in Aqua Metals.
- The patent-pending AquaRefining technology is described as "a closed-loop, room temperature, water-based recycling method that is fundamentally non-polluting, yet able to yield nearly 100% lead recovery."
- This new process is expected to begin at Nevada's Tahoe-Reno Industrial Complex, opening in July.
This new partnership seems promising, as Interstate collected close to 25 million automotive batteries through a network of more than 200,000 dealers last year, but only sells 17 million of them annually. The company sells to markets such as marine, heavy equipment, golf cart, landscaping equipment, data center cloud infrastructure, and security system markets.
The new Aqua Metals facility received a mixed reaction due to questions about air quality and emissions earlier this year, but if it meets all environmental standards, the technology has exciting potential. Based on the toxic history of battery facilities, such as the contaminated Exide Technologies site in California, lead processing is not a popular concept for local communities. Yet other companies such as Battery Solutions, which recently teamed up with Call2Recycle, have shown that it can be done right.
Finding new, efficient ways to process lead will continue to be important. The Battery Council International says that lead remains one of the best energy storage technologies and 74% of lead used in new batteries comes from recycling. The organization also says that while the battery industry is the world's largest consumer of lead, it's not the leading source of toxic exposure to people.