As more and more Americans embrace electric vehicles, automakers and the federal government are racing to secure the materials needed to build EV batteries, including by pouring billions of dollars into battery recycling. Today, recyclers are focused on recovering valuable metals like nickel and cobalt from spent lithium-ion batteries. But with the trade war between the U.S. and China escalating, some are now taking a closer look at another battery mineral that today’s recycling processes treat as little more than waste.

On December 1, China implemented new export controls on graphite, the carbon-based mineral that’s best known for being used in pencils but that’s also used in a more refined form in commercial EV battery anodes.

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