The Need For Sustainable Supply Chains

Panasonic is helping Tesla close the loop on battery cell production. They are purchasing copper foil from Redwood Materials, which has raised $775 million to accelerate producing copper from recycled materials this year.

Ford has also partnered with Redwood Materials to help its supply chain for battery production. To have half of all vehicle sales go to electric cars by 2030, closing the loop on resources needed to create batteries will ensure a sustainable deployment of electric vehicles.

A Promising Start

A little under a month since the announcement of Panasonic purchasing copper foil from Redwood Materials, Associated Press interviewed CEO JB Straubel about the success of their operations so far.

Like Tesla, Redwood Materials will have a long journey before being profitable. Even then, their process for recycling batteries is profitable. This is a positive sign as the technology of removing reusable materials from recyclable goods is developing and gaining traction.

Recycling Old Electronics For New Technologies

More so, the vast quantity of consumer electronics from toothbrushes and phones to car batteries and home storage systems poses a fantastic opportunity for Redwood Materials. The amount of recyclable electronics reaching the landfill is astonishing; according to the EPA, 25 percent of E-waste is recycled. To close the loop on E-waste material is a critical endeavor that will allow companies like JB Straubel’s to succeed, quickening the pace at which we transition into a sustainable future.

Comments by JB Straubel

This is a bright start for Redwood Materials; as they reinvest into their operations, it is essential to remember that they are pioneering a necessary part of the green energy transition. They were asked about the value of recovering materials from small electronics like toothbrushes. JB Straubel noted that “Actually it is. It’s not just copper. Lithium-ion batteries are one of the highest value materials to recycle modern consumer goods. They’re just difficult to do, and it’s quite tricky to get all those valuable elements out.”

Furthermore, concerns are growing about the sustainability of making electric vehicles (EVs), as the amount of technology and materials needed to create them have led to an increase in E-waste. This signals the importance of keeping the supply chain for green technology as circular as possible. Redwood Materials has identified that need, “We help partners recycle batteries, electronics, and end-of-life products with environmentally-sound processing and refining technologies to produce key elements for circular supply chains.”

The Future For Renewable Energy Tech.

As demand for EVs and battery backup grows, Redwood Materials positions themselves in a vital role to close the loop on resources needed to manufacture these technologies. E-waste is a significant source of materials ready for recovery and reuse, which all electronics consumers can aid in recycling in the US. Scaling the recycling process will determine how effective Redwood Materials is and ultimately provides insight into how quickly we can begin manufacturing battery and EV technologies nationwide. A critical situation for the US to establish itself as stewards of renewable energy technology deployment and development.

We recommend you check out their website to learn more about the elements they focus on recovering and where they are being applied!

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Manuel Larrain
Manuel Larrain is a Chilean-born US citizen who studied business and sustainability at Western Washington University. Solar energy is his passion, as it is transforming how Washingtonians power their lifestyle. He believes we can address climate change, environmental justice, and steward a brighter future for all of us through renewable energy.