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US firm opens plant in bid to reinvent the lead recycling industry

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 11:26 -- Vic

Lead-acid battery recycling start-up Aqua Metals has opened its plant less than a year after breaking ground on the building in the heart of the Tahoe Industrial Centre in Nevada, US.

The company now aims to begin recycling its first batteries at the 138,000 square foot plant using the firm’s AquaRefinary process in around a month.

The ceremony last week involved a fire truck driving through a banner reading ‘A new era begins 7.28.2016’ in place of a traditional ‘ribbon cutting’, a factory tour, BBQ and an all-girl Led Zeppelin covers band.

Clarke said during the opening ceremony: “We are going into an era of battery energy storage. We hear a lot about lithium-ion, and there’s a massive opening tomorrow [Tesla’s Gigafactory], but the 800-pound gorilla in the room is lead-acid.

“It’s the only 100% recycled product on the planet. Nothing else comes close, so we thought that was really cool.

“We looked at how lead-acid batteries were recycled and there’s an issue, and that’s smelting. A lot of people are trying to make it better, but outside the US it’s still poorly regulated.

The company will begin by producing lead ingots ‘because that’s what the business wants’, added Clarke.

The company aims to process 80 tonnes of lead per day by 2017 using its technology. It then plans to double this amount by 2018, helped in part by a deal with neighbouring firm Interstate Batteries, which is set to supply around 1,474 tonnes of automotive and other lead-acid scrap batteries a month as feedstock.

The plant uses traditional breaking and lead melting machines provided by Wirtz Manufacturing.