The growing diffusion of green technologies, essential for a low carbon emission economy, has caused an increasingly demand of lithium and its recent inclusion in the list of critical raw material for Europe. Currently, the main resources of lithium include brines and hard rock ores (placed in Chile, Australia, Argentina and China). Nevertheless, the possibility of an integrated supply system, able to include primary and secondary productions (from waste batteries), is becoming more and more interesting to decrease the environmental impacts. In this context, the present review combines a complete overview of lithium supply state-of-art, with an environmental assessment of several scenarios where primary production is integrated with urban mining strategies. The assessment aims at including several market aspects, to obtain results consistent with the evolving European context. Starting from real information, the evaluation proved the possible substitution of about 30% of primary lithium, with a consequent reduction of the environmental impact (>10%). The results represent an important supporting tool for the improvement of lithium recycling value chain. Indeed, several variables characterize the waste batteries management, including the available quantities, the selected recycling process and the relative amount of rechargeable/not rechargeable batteries. These aspects affect the real sustainability of European lithium supply strategy: centralized system vs a decentralized approach with many facilities on the territory. The combination of the carbon footprint assessment and the Monte Carlo methodology suggested the lowest impact of decentralized facilities for the greatest waste quantities, especially with high contribution of rechargeable batteries. The holistic view of the present review, able to include both the recycling and the strategic choices in the recycling planning, fit perfectly with the circular economy principles to meet the challenge of a sustainable and clean lithium supply system.

Challenges for sustainable lithium supply: A critical review

Amato A.;Becci A.;Beolchini F.
2021-01-01

Abstract

The growing diffusion of green technologies, essential for a low carbon emission economy, has caused an increasingly demand of lithium and its recent inclusion in the list of critical raw material for Europe. Currently, the main resources of lithium include brines and hard rock ores (placed in Chile, Australia, Argentina and China). Nevertheless, the possibility of an integrated supply system, able to include primary and secondary productions (from waste batteries), is becoming more and more interesting to decrease the environmental impacts. In this context, the present review combines a complete overview of lithium supply state-of-art, with an environmental assessment of several scenarios where primary production is integrated with urban mining strategies. The assessment aims at including several market aspects, to obtain results consistent with the evolving European context. Starting from real information, the evaluation proved the possible substitution of about 30% of primary lithium, with a consequent reduction of the environmental impact (>10%). The results represent an important supporting tool for the improvement of lithium recycling value chain. Indeed, several variables characterize the waste batteries management, including the available quantities, the selected recycling process and the relative amount of rechargeable/not rechargeable batteries. These aspects affect the real sustainability of European lithium supply strategy: centralized system vs a decentralized approach with many facilities on the territory. The combination of the carbon footprint assessment and the Monte Carlo methodology suggested the lowest impact of decentralized facilities for the greatest waste quantities, especially with high contribution of rechargeable batteries. The holistic view of the present review, able to include both the recycling and the strategic choices in the recycling planning, fit perfectly with the circular economy principles to meet the challenge of a sustainable and clean lithium supply system.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11566/290453
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