Cross-Industry Collaboration on Circularity and Recycling

Essential Insights from the Lead Battery Industry

 

Our guest blogger, Thea Soule, is the Chief Commercial Officer at Ecobat, headquartered in Irving, Texas. She shares her experience as a panelist at GreenBiz22 – an annual conference bringing together more than 1,200 sustainable focused professionals. Thea offers her perspective on the importance of partnerships in the drive for industry advancements in sustainability and innovative breakthroughs.

Thea Soule - Ecobat
Thea Soule

GreenBiz22 – Industry Panelist Recap

This February, I was invited to speak at GreenBiz22 about circularity in the metals and mining industry. As a representative of Ecobat, the world’s biggest battery recycler that is transforming energy storage, I was honored to engage in crucial discourse on the importance of recycling and circularity with a group of cross-industry leaders.

Championing Industry Partnerships

Attending events and conferences, such as GreenBiz22, are as informative for the panelists as they are for the attendees. The panel I was on, Hitting the Mother Lode: The Transition to Circular Mining, included other speakers from International Copper Association and BMW. It allowed me and other panelists to share the work our firms are doing, best practices, and views on how to innovate as an industry towards a more sustainable future.

Many important points were discussed; notably, we highlighted how the overall performance of recycled materials, and mixtures of recycled and virgin material, can perform just as well as virgin materials themselves and with lower carbon footprints. This is helpful when we realize virgin materials will eventually need to be phased out, a seamless process for some metals; however, for other metals, our focus should be on making prices competitive and simply reducing virgin materials. The importance of industry partnerships became an underlying theme; it is clear partnerships are going to be essential in bolstering innovation and industry advancements. This panel discussion introduced me to industry leaders that I have made lasting relationships with, and I look forward to championing them long-term.

Key Insights from the Panel

Two big takeaways from my time as a panelist include the pervasiveness of sustainability within the metals and mining supply chain, and the importance of collaboration. This is an exciting space to be in right now, with all key players focused on the transition to a more sustainable future. As the focus on the environment and sustainability grows, global supply chain partnerships, such as those with OEMs like BMW and its thousands of suppliers, and collaboration between private companies and the public sector, like Ecobat’s partnerships with universities and the U.S. Department of Energy, will be vital in advancing the research and deployment of circular battery solutions.

There is a lot of room to create big ideas to drive sustainability in the industry – we must think outside the box. At Ecobat, we have been taking this message to heart. Right now, recycled lead makes up about 82% of the lead we use – it is highly recyclable. As we continue to lead the recycling industry, we have also been advancing the recyclability of other crucial materials such as lithium. Hearing what questions the audience and moderator had for the panel was enlightening. There was rich discussion around R&D and ventures in the space, the performance of various metals when recycled, and the economic factors contributing to the commercialization of circular mining.

Impactful Connections

Engaging with my fellow panelists, other speakers, and attendees was a reminder of the value of in–person networking events. The last two years, we have had to be agile and conduct business through computer screens and phones, which has of course had its benefits. Returning to in-person events has reintroduced us to the joys of engaging with professionals with shared passions, from peers to those outside our industry. Building connections has direct positive impacts on our business, including increased visibility and exposure to potential customers and innovative ideas. Engaging in cross-industry conversations allows for meaningful discussion on key topics that can lead to innovation and breakthroughs.

Showing up to industry events and conferences are valuable opportunities that I am happily welcoming back in 2022. As we look to continue transforming energy storage, I am excited to continue participating in industry events both as a speaker and attendee.

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Venkat Srinivasan from the Argonne Collaborative Center

The lead acid battery ... is legendary. We can recycle 95+ percent of [these] batteries all across the world. It's a very safe chemistry, ... [and] we understand how to use it very, very well.

Dr. Venkat Srinivasan, Director, Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science