ForTheDoers Blog

New EU regulations promote the recycling of battery materials

Tero Holländer 09 December 2022, 09:38 EET

Creating a sustainable, innovative battery industry is one of EU’s goals. To that end, the EU Commission is reforming the regulatory environment around batteries. With the electrification of transport, increase of renewable energy and stronger focus on circular economy, a new framework is needed that covers the environmental and social aspects of the industry throughout the life cycle of the batteries.

battery recycling

We at Fortum welcome the new battery regulation, as it promotes the recycling of batteries and applies the concept of circularity to a much higher degree than before. A key aspect for the battery recycling business is the new obligation to use a certain percentage of recycled content in new batteries. This will create a new market for sustainable battery materials, which is something we look forward to.

There is an availability dilemma, though. In the early stages after the new regulation takes effect, the amount of recycled content extracted from used batteries will not be enough for all new batteries produced. This means that we must find additional sources, for example from production waste of the mining industry.

Urban mining and extracting valuable raw materials from old landfill waste also present possibilities for returning critical raw materials into use. I see significant potential in both this approach and in using production waste. The final form of the Battery regulation remains to be seen, but I am hopeful that the EU recognises this potential as well. The source of waste, whether it is manufacturing or post-consumer waste, or originating from batteries or other products, should not be the defining factor here. If the waste, any waste, has been recycled, the material should also be valid to fulfill the criteria for the mandatory recycled content.

Clear rules needed for efficient and sustainable recycling

Together with the new waste legislation, the reformed battery regulation may make the rules of recycling clearer throughout Europe. Currently, there are different interpretations on, for example, transporting end-of-life battery waste between countries.

We would like to see the battery waste generated in Europe recycled in Europe. This would allow better monitoring of process quality to ensure that batteries are recycled efficiently and in an environmentally sound way. This is by no means a given – there are still legacy recycling facilities that use thermic processes with a large CO2 footprint. Fortum’s process is designed with low CO2 footprint and high recovery rate as key targets. It is important to us that we can say our materials are sustainably recovered – and also that the processes are optimised for safety.

Battery recycling continues to develop in tandem with the development of new batteries. At Fortum, too, we will continue to develop our processes as new kinds of batteries and chemical compositions emerge. It is our vision to be a significant European player in battery materials recycling. By applying new technologies to create environmentally friendlier solutions, we take the idea of circularity into practice.

Tero Holländer

Head of Business Line, Batteries
tero [dot] hollander [at] fortum [dot] com

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