The ‘Hungry for Batteries’ campaign seeks to make e-bike battery recycling easier
This latest campaign spearheads a massive new e-bike battery recycling program with 52 e-bike brands and 1,800 dropoff locations nationwide.
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PeopleForBikes has partnered with battery recycling experts Call2Recycle and San Francisco-based creative consultancy InGoodTaste for an e-bike battery recycling program across the United States. Called “Hungry for Batteries,” this new campaign includes a total of 52 different electric bike brands as well as bicycle dealers across the country.
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The “Hungry for Batteries” campaign coordinates electric bike battery disposal with more than 50 electric bike brands and motors, including Bosch, Shimano, Fazua, and Yamaha. Further, batteries coming out of brands such as Cannondale, REI’s Co-Op Cycles, Giant, Specialized, Trek, and more will participate in the program. PeopleForBikes says this e-bike battery recycling program is the first of its kind in almost any industry including electric vehicles.
All told, the program boasts 52 e-bike brands and more than 1,800 retail drop-off locations in the United States, a vast network that should make recycling much simpler for cyclists.
This latest campaign is centered around an animated character named Watts, who is said to “scour the country looking for e-bike batteries to consume and eliminate from our waste streams.” Is Watts the hero we asked for? Unsure, but they are the hero we need if we are to continue to use e-bike batteries as currently built.
How the e-bike battery recycling program works
Rather than send them to a landfill, batteries from brands partnered with the program can drop their electric bike battery at their e-bike dealer. That enrolled dealer then works with Call2Recycle, a recycling logistics firm that coordinates all of this to transport the batteries to either a local sorter or a recycler.
Once a rider drops a battery off at a local shop, the shop is then trained to collect the battery using special recycling kits. Batteries that have been compromised in some way – think swelling cells, wires all over the place, or a tampered-with battery – go into one kit, while uncompromised batteries go into another kit. That enrolled dealer then works with Call2Recycle, a not-for-profit recycling logistics firm that coordinates recycling of all kinds, to transport the batteries to either a local sorter or to a processor for recycling.
The goal is always to keep the battery as close to the original starting point, according to Call2Recycle. There’s no point in transporting a battery long distances to be recycled if it can be done closer and with less energy used.
As of now, there are four different recyclers Call2Recycle works with, including Redwood Materials, Li-Cycle, RCI, and Interco. Once they receive the battery, the recycler determines how much of the battery is reusable, including connectors, wires, and other components. They then strip out relevant elements like nickel, cobalt, and copper in a chemical recycling process. Much of this is dependent on the battery chemistry, but more modern batteries can more easily be recycled.
Redwood Materials is a flashy name in the battery recycling world. The company was founded in 2017 by Jeffrey “JB” Straubel, a once chief technology officer at Tesla. Redwood breaks down scrap from major companies’ battery-making processes, and it also recycles electric vehicle batteries from the likes of Ford, Toyota, Lyft, Specialized, and others.
Just how much of these e-bike batteries can be recycled? Call2Recycle estimates that between 70 to 90 percent of a battery submitted for recycling can be completely reused to make more batteries, an incredible number for any recycler much less for something as necessary as batteries.
What happens next?
PeopleForBikes is keen to point out that “Hungry for Batteries” is far from a finished project. The original program – a pilot program of sorts – started in November 2021 through a partnership with Specialized, Call2Recycle, and PeopleForBikes. Slowly, other brands and their retailers have been brought on. It’s been a slower process than one might expect, but absolutely necessary to ensure retailers have undergone training to properly handle batteries to ensure battery recycling goes about as smoothly as possible.
The “Hungry for Batteries” campaign is the first public-centric campaign they’ve run, and the first introduction of their Watts character that eats batteries. Stay tuned, PeopleForBikes says, for more characters and more stories that aim to educate the public about why recycling e-bike batteries, how to maintain e-bike batteries, and more.
The world is electrifying quickly, and the program that PeopleForBikes calls the first of its kind is a positive development for building a circular economy around batteries. While 70 to 90 percent recycling isn’t perfect, it is quite a bit better than leaving batteries to sit in a landfill.
Call2Recycle claims they have collected and recycled more than 140 million pounds of batteries in the United States in the last 25 years. When one considers that more than 12 million electric bikes will be sold in the U.S. between 2020 and 2030 alone, a program like this should make a difference.
Meet Watts and learn more about the e-bike battery recycling program at hungryforbatteries.org.