Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Johnson Controls, Aqua Metals Revolutionizing Lead-Acid Battery Recycling

Solid and e-waste generation are growing at alarming rates as income and demand for new gadgets, appliances and automobiles rise across the globe. The dangers of rampant e-waste for environmental and human health are significant, but a new partnership announced last week marks an important step towards progress.

The world’s largest automotive battery manufacturer Johnson Controls has joined forces with Aqua Metals to change the way lead-acid batteries are recycled globally.

Johnson controls is set to employ a new technology that recycles spent lead-acid batteries through a water-based, fundamentally non-polluting process. This is a huge shakeup considering current lead-acid battery recycling processes involve significant pollutants.

Under the terms of a multi-faceted deal, Johnson Controls will also be investing $11 million in Aqua Metal.

“Our partnership with Johnson Controls is a tremendous step forward and is an opportunity for us to work with the global leader in automotive battery manufacturing and responsible recycling,” said Dr. Stephen Clarke, chairman and CEO of Aqua Metals. “We will build on this exciting relationship in order to enable clean and efficient battery recycling around the world.”

Under the agreement, Johnson controls will:

  • Become the first licensee for AquaRefining™ technology
  • Supply Aqua Metals with batteries to recycle as a service, as part of the Johnson Controls closed-loop network
  • Purchase AquaRefined™ metals produced from Aqua Metals’ facilities
  • Acquire just under 5 percent of Aqua Metals outstanding shares

“Agreements like this are a part of our continuing strategy to invest in clean technologies, building on our commitment to create a more sustainable and environmentally responsible industry,” said Joe Walicki, President of Johnson Controls Power Solutions.

Aqua Metals, which recently opened its first plant in McCarran, Nevada, uses an advanced electrochemical process for recycling batteries. As it scales up capacity, Aqua Metals plans to hire hundreds of employees for existing and future operations across the United States.

Unlike smelting, the AquaRefining process, which Aqua Metals says is non-polluting, uses a water-based, room-temperature process to produce lead. The company expects its AquaRefining systems to allow the lead-acid battery industry to simultaneously reduce negative environmental impacts and increase production to meet rapidly growing demand.

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