99.997%

Pure Lead

is the product of Aqua Metals’ lead refining process

55

Truckloads

The amount of lead that Aqua produced and shipped to Clarios, the world's largest battery manufacturer

40

International Patents

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.

About

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.

AQMS: What We Want to See Improve

Rebound from Fire Damage and Expand Quickly


In November 2019, a fire occurred (p. 11) at Aqua Metals’ recycling facility in Tanoe-Reno, Nevada (unrelated to the recycling process) and destroyed and damaged nearly all of the AquaRefining equipment, totaling ~30 million in damages and almost 98% drop in revenue. Rather than restoring the facility back to its full pre-fire capacity and operating all of its AquaRefining modules, Aqua Metals decided to pursue a business model focused on licensing the use of those modules, since this would be far less capital intensive. Regardless of the revenue stream, we are eager to see Aqua Metal bounce back from this accident and start growing again.

Track GHG Emissions


Aqua Metals claims (p. 4) that its recycling process reduces environmental plant emissions and health concerns compared to lead smelting. But they don’t report environmental and emissions statistics that allow investors to evaluate this claim. We would like Aqua Metal to publish annual sustainability reports that contain metrics on their direct and indirect GHG emissions, as well as other key sustainability metrics and targets.

Expand Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling


Aqua Metal’s partnership with LINICO is very encouraging, but with the increasing adoption of electric vehicles worldwide, recycling lithium-ion batteries will become imperative in the very near future. We want to see Aqua Metals become one of the leaders in this area.

Other Industrial Recycling Stocks in the Climate Index

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