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“Getting Stoned” Talks Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling With Li-Cycle’s Kunal Phalpher

Getting Stoned is a podcast that I started on New Years Day 2021 and it’s a neat way of exploring gems and minerals — both of which play active roles in our day-to-day lives. 

In this episode, I interviewed Li-Cycle’s Chief Commercial Officer, Kunal Phalpher about the company and the importance of battery recycling. Again, minerals such as lithium play a very critical role in our lives. 

What Is Li-Cycle?

I learned about Li-Cyle by reading an article on CleanTechnica that my friend Jennifer Sensiba wrote. The article covered the company’s latest big news —  its plans to go public through a deal with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Li-Cycle will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and will be known as LICY — and yes I plan to add some to my portfolio. 

I believe in investing in companies that impact our planet in a positive way and battery recycling is something that we need more awareness and advocacy for. Li-Cycle is North America’s largest lithium-ion battery recycling company and I thought it would be a great topic for Getting Stoned

I reached out to Li-Cycle and invited them to the podcast. They happily accepted and Kunal joined me to talk about the importance of battery recycling and what Li-Cycle does. I started the podcast off by congratulating Kunal and the company for its newest milestone of getting listed on the NYSE.  Kunal told me that the company was excited to take this next step and grow the business internationally. 

Lithium is very important and powers most of our lives. Many people may not even be aware of just how dependent we are on lithium-ion batteries. Kunal agreed and noted that many are not aware just how many times a day that someone may touch a device powered by a lithium-ion battery. “In your daily life, you’re fixing some cupboards, driving around, taking the bus, that’s more in the future but there’s definitely a lot around us.” 

Recycling is very important, and when we recycle lithium-ion batteries, we are actually helping our planet. I asked Kunal just how Li-Cycle was making lithium-ion batteries a circular and sustainable product.

“Li-Cycle developed a technology to maximize efficiency and make it an economic business case to recycle lithium-ion batteries and bring the various — not just lithium but all of the materials also back into the supply chain. So, very simply, we have a two-stage process what we call our Spoke and Hub and it consists of a mechanical and then a chemical process which allows us to take all types of batteries so it’s not just your consumer electronics. 

“We’re already processing materials from vehicles, buses, all of your household goods, and even from the production of lithium-ion batteries themselves. One thing that people don’t realize is that there’s waste generated that has valuable materials in it that can be recovered and brought back into the production chain.”

Kunal told me that in some cases when lithium-ion batteries are recycled wrongly — meaning they go to a facility that doesn’t really know how to process them — it can cause fires. They actually have caused fires. We also spoke of how Li-Cycle serves its customers. “Our focus is business to business,” he told me, adding that he thought there were a lot of well-established collection programs that provide bins for battery recycling at retail locations. 

I’ve never personally seen these types of bins in my areas, but will be sure to be on the lookout for them. Kunal did point out that this is not too well known. I hope we can make it well known, and if more people demand these bins to be placed at retail locations, then all the better for our planet. 

Kunal told me that electronic bins are often combined with alkaline batteries and that Li-Cycle’s focus was separating the lithium-ion batteries from the electronic companies, so they partner with those programs that provide lithium-ion recycling. We also touch upon how the average consumer can be more proactive at recycling lithium-ion batteries, and this goes back to educating the general public about their options and pointing towards those locations that provide lithium-ion battery recycling. 

Another thing we spoke about was how Li-Cycle processes 5,000 tonnes of lithium-ion batteries annually. Kunal gave me a visual of what that looks like. “Your average electric vehicle battery is about half a ton, so we could process about 10,000 electric vehicle batteries in one of those spoke facilities,” he told me. After doing some quick calculations in his head, Kunal noted that the average cell phone battery is about 50 grams. “So if we translate that into tonnes, it’s in the millions.” 

Getting Stoned

Although I write here for EV Obsession and CleanTechnica, I also have my own jewelry business and blog where I share my knowledge about gems and minerals as I learn about them. Billy Carson, a wise person I follow online, often notes that if you want to be good at something, master all aspects of it. Since I have a passion for jewelry, gems, and minerals, I aim to do this in that regard and this is why I started a podcast called Getting Stoned. It’s a fun wordplay that gets people talking about one of my favorite subjects. 

Normally it’s not a topic for CleanTechnica or EV Obsession, but this particular interview is a cleantech-related one that I thought would be pretty epic to share here. Another reason is that battery recycling should be mainstream and I hope that through this episode, this article, and my own blog, we can start to create more awareness about the importance of recycling batteries. 

Speaking of minerals, I extend a warm invitation to anyone who wants to come on to talk about gems, minerals, science, and technology.

 
Written By

Johnna Crider is a Louisiana native who likes crawfish, gems, minerals, EVs, and advocates for sustainability. Johnna is also the host of GettingStoned.online, a jewelry artisan and a $TSLA shareholder.

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