University of San Diego

San Diego Journal of Climate & Energy Law


Liz Harland

Library of Congress Authority File


The discovery of potential environmental, geo-political, and human health concerns from the production and disposal of millions of Li-ion batteries each year demands stronger government policies to encourage recovery, recycling and reuse of Li-ion battery materials. The increasing demand for lithium will potentially shift the resource curse experienced by oil-rich countries to lithium-rich countries in South America, such as Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. Part II of this Comment provides an overview of the negative impacts associated with the mining, production, and disposal of Li-ion batteries. It examines the environmental and human health effects of mining lithium on surrounding communities, and brings to light the future threat of lithium depletion. Part III discusses the challenges associated with recycling Li-ion batteries, and how the impediments to recover Li-ion battery materials makes mining the materials more profitable than recovering them. Moreover, Part III addresses how the unknown potential of a future market for recycling Li-ion battery materials discourages investment in the industry.
Part IV illustrates the achievements of Tesla Motors and Umicores battery recycling plant in Europe to develop a battery recycling process that is both profitable and environmentally conscious. Part IV then explores extended producer responsibility legislation in the European Union as a potential model for United States regulations to promote Li-ion battery recycling. Part V illustrates an absence of supportive regulations in the United States to abate our dependence on foreign nations for natural resources that are being depleted. Finally, Part V argues that supportive regulations can make a profitable and environmentally sound recycling process achievable.