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Energy Department loans $375M to lithium recycling company with AZ ties

The U.S. Department of Energy is loaning lithium-battery-recycling company Li-Cycle $375 million to build a hub near Rochester, New York.

The plant will receive material prepped by a 140,000-square-foot facility that opened in Gilbert late last spring.

Lithium ion batteries power everything from electric vehicles to smartphones and are essential to storing renewable energy. But despite the scarcity and environmental impact of mining some of their components, only a tiny fraction are recycled. In part, that’s because many methods are inefficient, dangerous and unsustainable.

Li-Cycle’s approach has “spoke” facilities like Gilbert’s break batteries down into plastics, metals and a mixture called black mass, which they ship to a hub facility like the one to be built in Rochester. There, a proprietary, water-based process recovers lithium, cobalt, nickel and other battery components.

Last week, another recycling firm, Ecobat, announced plans to build a battery recycling plant in Casa Grande.

Nicholas Gerbis joined KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk in 2016. A longtime science, health and technology journalist and editor, his extensive background in related nonprofit and science communications inform his reporting on Earth and space sciences, neuroscience and behavioral health, and bioscience/biotechnology.Apart from travel and three years in Delaware spent earning his master’s degree in physical geography (climatology), Gerbis has spent most of his life in Arizona. He also holds a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School and a bachelor’s degree in geography (climatology/meteorology), also from ASU.Gerbis briefly “retired in reverse” and moved from Arizona to Wisconsin, where he taught science history and science-fiction film courses at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is glad to be back in the Valley and enjoys contributing to KJZZ’s Untold Arizona series.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gerbis focused almost solely on coronavirus-related stories and analysis. In addition to reporting on the course of the disease and related research, he delved into deeper questions, such as the impact of shutdowns on science and medicine, the roots of vaccine reluctance and the policies that exacerbated the virus’s impact, particularly on vulnerable populations.