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The Safest Route for E-Bike Battery Recycling

E-bikes have transformed sustainable urban transportation. But what happens to the e-bike batteries at the end of their life?

We have seen across the US and around the globe that e-bikes reduce emissions, lower household expenses, increase access to mobility, and promote physical activity. Yet, as the e-bike revolution charges forward, it is imperative to address a potential environmental challenge: what happens to the batteries at the end of their life?

APTIM’s e-mobility team supports entire communities as they make the transition to electric transportation, to which lithium batteries are critical. In this article, we qualify the magnitude of this challenge and share actionable recycling solutions for bike retailers, government leaders, and other stakeholders.

E-Bike Battery Anatomy & Lifespan

Batteries powering the micromobility movement are mostly made of lithium-ion cells and contain various toxic compounds (e.g., cadmium, lead, and sulfuric acid), encased in aluminum or steel. These batteries have an average lifespan of two to five years, depending on usage, charging patterns, and overall care, and their performance degrades over time until they need to be replaced. If old batteries end up in landfill, they can contaminate groundwater, short-circuit, overheat, or cause deadly fires, presenting a significant threat to human health and the environment.

Safe Battery Management

With e-bike sales skyrocketing, battery recycling solutions are critical. For context, in 2019, the market for lithium-ion batteries stood at $36.7 billion and is projected to reach $129.3 billion by 2027. This explosive growth in battery production and, subsequently, disposal highlights the urgency for efficient recycling strategies.

Manufacturers, retailers, local governments, and consumers must work together to ensure e-bike batteries are safely managed—and APTIM is here to facilitate that collaboration. Listed below are initial steps stakeholders can take to pave a more sustainable path forward and ways our waste minimization team can help drive solutions.

Battery Manufacturers

E-bike battery manufacturers play a pivotal role in creating circular economies for their products, where materials are reclaimed and reused and/or recycled. If you are a manufacturer, we highly encourage you to join your peers as a member of Call2Recycle, a stewardship organization for safe end-of-life battery management/recycling to learn about and adopt best practices. APTIM’s team can supply technical assistance to quickly facilitate your organization’s membership application.

Bike Retailers

Retailers in the e-bike market can take proactive roles in battery management by offering take-back programs. Call2Recycle also offers free resources to retailers, enabling customers to return their used batteries for proper disposal or recycling at no cost. Through their Hungry for Batteries program, they provide recycling kits, transportation and logistics, safety materials, and rider education. Our waste minimization team has supported over 375 retail locations with setting up set up safe, well-managed battery collection take-back programs.

Government Leaders

State and/or local government leaders understand the importance of safe battery management. Lithium battery fires from improperly disposed batteries are on the rise, but they can be prevented with battery recycling legislation and/or adopting local battery retail take-back/recycling ordinances. For assistance drafting legislation and/or local ordinances, our experts can offer knowledge of relevant federal, state, and local partnerships; experience working with public agencies and non-profits; and success in procuring the support necessary to advance safe battery recycling agendas.

Take Charge of Your Recycling Program

The e-bike revolution holds immense promise for sustainable urban mobility. As we electrify our cities, urgent, innovative, and collaborative efforts for responsible battery stewardship are needed.

Connect with APTIM’s e-mobility and waste minimization teams to learn more about how you can support safe, responsible, and sustainable battery recycling.

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Connect with APTIM's e-mobility and waste minimization teams.

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