Recycling Targets

Eucobat Positions
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The increasing importance of mobile electrical and electric appliances results in a continuous growth of battery volumes put on the market in general and batteries with an increasing energy density, such as lithium batteries. These batteries are composed of an increasing number of heterogeneous, mostly low value materials. 

Available recycling techniques aim at recovering a wide range of materials that are contained in the batteries, partly even with extremely low yields. Often this results in small quantities of unattractive, non-marketable products. 

In a research study that has been conducted to assess the appropriateness of available recycling technologies for lithium batteries, the impact of several factors like energy consumption, separation/yield efficiency, environmental pollution and toxicity have been assessed for several standard recycling methods. The results show that the energy consumption is one of the most significant parameters on the overall performance of the recycling techniques. Another independent survey supports this conclusion.

According to the study, marginally improving the separation efficiency by choice of the appropriate recycling technique usually goes with an incommensurately steep increase of energy consumption. As a consequence, processes that allow the recovery of a high number of different materials are very energy intensive leading to high recycling cost. 

Given the economic pressure in the battery recycling industry and the demand for environmentally sustainable recycling processes, there is an urgent need for processes that balance energy consumption and cost on the one hand with an ecologically worthwhile raw material recovery on the other hand.

The actual recycling targets do not take into account the value of the recovered materials on one hand or the energy consumption of the recycling process on the other hand. This might lead to a situation where the targets can only be achieved by a recycling process which recovers the low value materials with a high energy consumption. 

From an economical point of view, recycling of materials only makes sense if these materials are easily marketable.

Eucobat Proposal

Eucobat pursues a future-oriented recycling strategy, taking into account the full environmental impact of the recycling process and the economical value of the materials contained in the batteries.

The recycling targets should be realistic, measurable and value-based instead of mass-based, and should ensure the recycling of hazardous and valuable materials to the highest degree that is technically feasible while avoiding excessive costs.