RELUX installs TOMRA's X-TRACT for efficient battery sorting

RELUX Rohstoffe uses TOMRA's X-TRACT at its recycling plant in Bad Oeynhausen, Germany. Equipped with the latest battery sorting technology, the plant processes up to 3 tons of mixed batteries per hour, enabling a successful recovery of different battery types and their subsequent recycling.


RELUX, a medium-sized, owner-managed recycling company based in Bad Oeynhausen, Germany, specializes in a range of different recycling and sorting applications, including lamp recycling, metal sorting, the production of railroad sleepers made of recycled plastic as well as battery recycling. Partnering with the battery take-back systems in Germany, RELUX sorts and recycles around half of the battery mixtures and portable batteries collected in Germany each year. In total, approximately 11,000 tons of battery mixtures are processed every year. In its quest for an efficient, cost-effective and automated solution for sorting AA and AAA round cell batteries, RELUX approached TOMRA.


Before the installation of X-TRACT, sorting was done manually, which significantly limited the volume that could be processed. Since installing the machine in 2020 and therewith automating the process RELUX has reached its previously hard to reach targets and now realizes higher overall throughput rates and consistently stable qualities. Florian Clever, Technical Manager in Bad Oeynhausen, describes the company's targets: "The purity of the sorting fractions has to be kept in the range of >98% at all times. In addition, we have to guarantee that the fractions are recycled sustainably." Thanks to the X-TRACT and an extensive, automated sorting process, the company also increased the amount of material that is processed by almost 200% and now makes throughputs of up to 3 t/h a reality.

The batteries collected go through a multiple-step sorting process First, the battery mixtures from collection points throughout Germany are carefully presorted and classified into AA and AAA round cell batteries. X-TRACT is then used to help sort the AA and AAA round cell batteries by type into groups of alkali-manganese & zinc-carbon, lithium, nickel metal hydride and nickel cadmium batteries in a multi-stage process.

This preciseness is due to the sorting machines outstanding features. X-TRACT combines the latest technologies in just one machine: The highly efficient X-ray transmission technology allows for precisely classifying even the smallest and mixed materials and differentiating them by density. Once recovered, materials are ready to be used for the production of high-quality secondary raw materials.



In addition to the technical advantages, RELUX profits from many more advantages on site, there included the possibility to further sort the pre-sorted materials at its premises, crushing zinc-carbon and alkali-manganese batteries and making them available to the industry as a marketable product. Thanks to the high purity levels achieved, the lithium, nickel-metal hydride and nickel-cadmium batteries can be distributed to specialist recycling companies and sent for recycling to recover the elements within.

Given the difficulty of detecting and correctly sorting rolling objects such as batteries, TOMRA has supplied a customized design with the respective software configuration to meet the challenge successfully and profitably. Since the input streams compositions are changing rapidly and increasingly, the design has been further developed during operation of the plant to handle these new challenges. "The design of the machine is robust and excellent for use in a recycling plant. We expect long service lives from the high-quality plant components," explains Florian Clever.

"X-TRACT exceeds the maximum throughputs that were originally assumed possible, without compromising on quality. We are working with RELUX to develop new approaches to sorting the batteries," says Frank Szabo, Area Sales Manager at TOMRA.



The market for batteries depends partly on the technical development of the chemical battery types, such as nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal hydride, alkali-manganese, and zinc-carbon batteries, but is also influenced by consumer behavior. "In the future, we expect significantly higher return rates of lithium batteries (LIBs) and an increase in the quantities placed on the market. As the take-back quotas required by the EU are higher, we anticipate higher battery recycling rates," explains Florian Clever. Since January 1, 2021, the German Batteries Act (BattG) has been amended and the collection rate increased to 50%. Working with TOMRA as a partner, he is optimistic about the future and the changing market conditions: " Thanks to our latest expansion at the Bad Oeynhausen site, we are well-placed as a service provider for sustainable solutions in the battery recycling sector. Our main challenge now will be to keep abreast of the ever-changing material streams. With lithium content predicted to increase in the coming years we have to adjust the sorting process accordingly."

"We have had good experiences with both TOMRA machines in the past at various sites, and their service offering. We have worked with TOMRA to further develop the X-TRACT and optimize the sorting process." With the support of TOMRA Service and TOMRA Care, the RELUX Environmental Group is looking positively ahead.