Case 14.12.2017

Tracegrow: Nutrient products for agriculture from the trace elements of used alkaline batteries

Tracegrow has developed a unique technology by means of which the trace elements contained in used alkaline batteries, i.e. zinc and manganese, can be used to make clean, efficient, ecological micro-nutrient products for use in agriculture.
Further information
Mikko Joensuu

Operations Director
Tracegrow
mikko.joensuu (at) tracegrow.com

Many global challenges can be addressed by recycling used alkaline batteries: the trace elements of alkaline batteries can be reutilised, agricultural land suffering from a lack of trace elements can be fertilised and scarce natural resources are saved.

Recycling battery nutrients

The operation of an alkaline battery is based on a reaction between two trace elements: zinc and manganese. More than 10 billion alkaline batteries have been manufactured worldwide. The number of used alkaline batteries is increasing by approximately 5-6 per cent every year. Earlier, used alkaline batteries were just dumped, but in 2004 the EU Regulation on the Landfill of Waste prohibited the disposal of alkaline batteries in landfills. Batteries often end up in foundries, where zinc can be recovered, though most of them are stored. The EU countries are committed to recycling approximately 50 per cent of their batteries. The recycling need is thus approximately 125,000 tons a year, of which Finland's share is about 2,000 tons. Therefore, there is an urgent need for recycling solutions.

Tracegrow offers a solution through which approximately 80 per cent of the trace elements in alkaline batteries can be reutilised.

Efficient, ecological recycling

"With our technology, we have developed a further processing method with outstanding recyclability. The end product is a liquid containing trace elements and including manganese, zinc, potassium and sulphur. For example, the liquid can be applied with irrigation water to enhance the growth of crops and cultivated plants. The best thing is that the process is energy-efficient and does not generate any waste water", says Mikko Joensuu, Operations Director at Tracegrow.

According to statistics, approximately 20 million tons of manganese and 13 tons of zinc were extracted from the soil in 2016. By utilising the trace elements contained in batteries, the extraction of virgin manganese and zinc can be reduced. In addition, these trace element products can be used to make the existing agricultural land healthier and more productive, thereby boosting food production globally without having to increase the amount of agricultural land.

Production plant to be set up at Kärsämäki

The first production plant specialising in micro nutrients for agricultural use will be completed at Kärsämäki around the end of the year, after which the company will start production with a test permit. The broad manufacture of products will begin during 2018. This will also allow the customising of Tracegrow's technology and products according to country-specific needs.

Tracegrow has been developing its technology and investigated the situation and needs of the global market through financial support from Tekes. Other partners in the development projects have been the Natural Resources Institute Finland and the Baltic Sea Action Group.

Targeting the global micro nutrient market.

The aim of the growth company is to enter the global micro nutrient market. The value of the market is estimated to be over USD 8.5 million by 2023, with an annual growth rate of over 8 per cent.

"We help our customers and partners growth profitably and ecologically with the help of our efficient, clean products and innovative technology. Our aim is to be the most recognised company to produce micro nutrients for agriculture in the global recycling economy," Joensuu says.

For further information, please contact

Mikko Joensuu
Operations Director
Tracegrow
mikko.joensuu (at) tracegrow.com

Tracegrow is engaged in the Breakthrough in Nutrient Recycling ecosystem (RaKi) of Tekes' BioNets programme. The aim of the ecosystem is to allow the breakthrough of nutrient recycling and to create new Finnish business for the global market