Information technology and electronics asset disposition provider ERI, headquartered in Fresno, California, and Redwood Materials have formed an exclusive partnership to recycle batteries as well as solar panels. Carson City, Nevada-based Redwood Materials was co-founded by JB Straubel, formerly of electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer Tesla. Redwood is focused on creating circular supply chains and developing fully closed-loop recycling for lithium-ion batteries.
Under the terms of the partnership, Redwood Materials has made a significant strategic investment in ERI, though John Shegerian, co-founder and chief executive of ERI, declines to comment on the size of the company’s stake. Straubel, CEO of Redwood, also has joined ERI’s board of directors.
Shegerian tells Recycling Today that the partnership reflects ERI’s collaborative nature. “We have had massive success collaborating before with innovators and leaders—and now we have a third strategic downstream partner to help take us to unparalleled levels of recycling capability. Plus, the leadership and expertise level on our board is unmatched in our space—with LS Nikko Copper, Alcoa and now JB Straubel of Redwood Materials on our board—it puts us in rare air.”
South Korea-based LS-Nikko Copper, one of the world’s largest copper smelters, took a minority position in ERI in late 2009 before increasing its investment in 2010. The partnership also provides a market for the copper and precious metal scrap generated at ERI’s electronics recycling facilities.
The aluminum producer Alcoa, based in Pittsburgh, also took a 10 percent stake in ERI in 2011.
“The strategic partners with whom we work to achieve circular economy goals are not only our downstream partners they are investors in our company and sit on our board,” Shegerian says. “This is a paradigm that is unparalleled in the recycling industry throughout the world.”
Regarding ERI’s partnership with Redwood, he says, “We’re going to be providing solar panels and batteries that we collect, and Redwood will be sending us materials that we are suitable to be handling.”
Shegerian says Redwood also will have access to ERI’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners that want to make their products greener, adding that “the commodities produced by Redwood Materials can significantly help with that process.”
ERI has been doing R&D in the area of solar panel recycling for the last five years, Shegerian says. “It’s one of the ‘last miles’ of responsible electronic waste recycling. We are already shredding panels and sending downstream materials to Redwood for processing. This impactful partnership with Redwood allows us to finally responsibly recycle solar panels throughout the U.S. and way beyond."
He adds that the partners also will function in a “radically transparent” manner to responsibly recycle cobalt, nickel, copper and lithium found in end-of-life batteries.
“Initially, Redwood will receive up to 30 tons a week of lithium-ion batteries collected by ERI,” Shegerian says. “And that volume will evolve and grow over time just as all of our volumes have over the last 17 years.”
“Redwood is focused on steadily and relentlessly improving recycling economics with technology to reduce the cost of materials and create a circular supply chain to power a sustainable future,” Straubel says in a news release announcing the partnership. “By partnering with ERI, we’ll be able to ensure the largest supply of e-waste batteries in the U.S. is recycled into materials to build new EVs and clean energy products.”
With the investment from Redwood Materials, Shegerian says ERI plans to expand. “We are going to continue to grow throughout North America as well as internationally. Europe, Asia and South America are all in our line of sight for growth and expansion.”