is the product of Aqua Metals’ lead refining process
The amount of lead that Aqua produced and shipped to Clarios, the world's largest battery manufacturer
The number of patents Aqua Metals has obtained, along with US patents and 62 patents pending as of end of 2020
The Path to Drawdown: Industrial Recycling
Project Drawdown defines recycling as the increased recovery of recyclable post-consumer waste (like metals, plastic, glass, etc.) from the industrial and residential sectors of the economy. Recycling replaces the disposal of recyclable materials in landfills and reduces the need to use new material for production.
Waste from manufacturing, construction, restaurants, office buildings, schools and mines accounts for about half of all waste. All that is grouped together as “industrial and commercial waste.” Much of it, though not all, can be recycled, and a range of strategies can enhance recycling rates.
Some of these strategies include create marketplaces for secondary materials to facilitate the exchange of recyclable and reusable goods, innovation in conversion technologies to make more materials recyclable, and adopting circular business models to recapture “waste” as a valuable resource.
Recycling industrial and commercial material can reduce emissions because producing new products from recovered materials often saves energy. As one example, forging recycled aluminum products uses 95% less energy than creating them from virgin materials.
Project Drawdown estimates that, by 2050, a serious commitment to recycling can help avoid 6.02 gigatons of GHG emissions. To get there, recycling practices need to be adopted much more widely that they are now:
- In 2014, 27% of recyclable waste was recycled
- By 2050, 68% of recyclable materials should be recycled
- That’s 2.6% CAGR between 2014 and 2050
If we can achieve this 68% recycling scenario, we can avoid up to 6.02 gigatons of GHG emissions.
Aqua Metals, Inc. (stock ticker: AQMS) recycles lead acid batteries and produces lead recovered from used lead acid batteries. Headquartered in Tanoe-Reno, Nevada, it has smelters in North America, Europe and Asia.
AQMS's Role in Drawdown
Aqua Metals’ revenue largely consists of licensing their proprietary lead acid battery recycling process, AquaRefining, and supporting equipment to third parties for their recycling operations.
AquaRefining (p. 5) is an alternative to the traditional method of lead acid battery recycling. AquaRefining has two key elements. First is the use of a proprietary, non-toxic solvent that dissolves lead compounds. The second is a proprietary electric-chemical process that converts the dissolved lead compounds into high-purity lead that’s suitable for use in lead acid battery production. It operates at room temperature and is based on water, so it’s a cleaner and safer alternative to traditional lead smelting.
The AquaRefining process can generate two outputs:
- Lead and lead-based products, including high-purity lead, lead alloys and lead compounds primarily intended for the lead acid battery industry. Aqua Metals is also exploring higher value lead-based products which may offer performance and life-cycle benefits to the industry
- Recovered plastic chips, intended for re-use in the manufacture of battery casings and other recycled plastic products
AQMS: What We Like
Aqua Metals is proactively looking for ways to improve its recycling process and technology, and to engage in partnerships to expand its operations:
- In January, 2021 Aqua Metals submitted a patent for a new capability designed to streamline the link from AquaRefining to battery manufacturing. Whereas the traditional method for producing lead oxide involves four steps, the new method awaiting a patent can bypass two of those steps. The streamlined process would result in significant savings in time, money and emissions.
- Aqua Metals is expanding into lithium-ion battery recycling by investing in LINICO Corporation. In February 2021, Aqua Metals committed a $2 million investment for a 10% ownership in LINICO as part of its strategy to strengthen growth by potentially applying AquaRefining intellectual property to lithium-ion battery recycling.
In January 2021, Aqua Metals and BASF established a partnership. The two companies will cooperate commercially and explore technical improvements to enhance AquaRefining performance.