Waste management firm Veolia has introduced its first UK electric vehicle battery recycling facility to process 20 per cent of the nation’s end-of-life batteries by 2024.
Many of the materials used in battery manufacturing rely on traditional water and energy-intensive processes. The Institute for Energy Research estimates that 500,000 gallons of water is needed to extract a tonne of lithium using this type of mining. Urban mining – the use of recycled materials – could reduce water use as well as cutting greenhouse gas emissions from battery production by up to 50 per cent, according to the International Council on Clean Transport.
There are myriad applications for the recyclable materials extracted. These include cobalt – used in vehicle airbags, chemical industries and alloys for aircraft engines, lithium for rechargeable batteries, and copper for electrical wiring, and aluminium for cans and foils.
Veolia said its ‘urban mining’ facility in Minworth, West Midlands, marks the first step in developing its recycling technology and treatment capacity within the UK, with an anticipated 350,000 tonnes of end-of-life electric vehicle batteries predicted to be in the country by 2040, according to the WMG University of Warwick.
The plant will initially discharge and dismantle batteries before the mechanical and chemical separation recycling processes will be completed. Veolia said it would use its global network to establish a fully circular economy solution in the next five years to produce battery precursors in Europe.
Gavin Graveson, Veolia’s senior executive vice-president, Northern Europe Zone, said: “This is an important first step on the UK’s journey to create an ethical and sustainable supply chain for batteries that will be increasingly necessary as we transition to a greener economy.
“We will not reach carbon neutrality without increasing our investment and development of new technologies and recycling opportunities. As the demand for electric vehicles increases, we will need this facility – and more like it in the UK – to ensure we don’t hit a resource crisis in the next decade.
“Alongside other projects across the globe, bringing Veolia’s expertise to the UK recognises the size of the national market and appetite to recycle locally and responsibly. Urban mining is essential if we are to protect raw materials and will, in turn, create a new, high-skilled industry.”
Image credit | Veolia