French resource management company Veolia will open an electric vehicle battery recycling facility in the UK, which it says will be able to process 20% of the UK’s end-of-life supply by 2024.
The firm will build a new facility in Minworth in the West Midlands. It will discharge and dismantle batteries before a chemical separation recycling process is completed.
“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,” said Gavin Graveson, senior executive vice-president of Veolia in northern Europe.
“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.
The firm believes 'urban mining' – the process of recovering precious metals from recycled materials – is the next step to reducing the use of raw materials, and that the process will “unlock” the UK’s lithium ion battery reserves.
Urban mining is a process that involves retrieving valuable metals from discarded electronic equipment, often through chemical treatments. Valuable elements such as cobalt, nickel and lithium are hard to dispose of due to their toxicity.
“Urban mining is essential if we are to protect raw materials and will in turn create a new, high-skilled industry,” Graveson said.
Veolia suggets some 90% of electric vehicle battery metals will ultimately be recycled through urban mining, and claims the combined efforts of urban mining and the use of recycled materials could significantly reduce water consumption and cut greenhouse gas emissions in battery production by as much as 50%.