The head of a metal recycling firm has called for tougher recycling targets for batteries to boost reuse rates and also to make the recycling process safer for industry employees. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is due to consult on new recycling targets shortly.
As an outcome of the consultation, Defra has drafted a UK Battery Strategy which will help the government to achieve its net zero emissions targets. This is the first such initiative to be devised in the UK and has been published alongside the Advanced Manufacturing Plan. The aim is to deliver a ‘joined-up battery ecosystem’ that will support economic growth.
Nusrat Ghani MP, Minister of State for Industry and Economic Security at the Department for Business and Trade and Minister of State for the Investment Security Unit at the Cabinet Office said in a statement:
“The scale of the opportunity for the UK economy is huge. Global demand for batteries, particularly lithium-ion ones, will accompany the growth in demand for energy-efficient products including electric vehicles (EVs). Just last year, Rolls Royce’s battery-powered plane, Spirit of Aviation, was crowned the world’s fastest ever all-electric vehicle.”
He added: “To make batteries, we need critical minerals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite, which are being sourced or processed in the UK, from Cornwall to Lincolnshire.”
“To strengthen our mineral supply chains, at a time of rising global demand, the UK government has taken decisive action to accelerate domestic capabilities and expand our critical minerals partnerships, whilst drawing upon our unique strengths in critical minerals – both domestically and overseas.”
The strategy calls for greater collaboration between recycling firms and industry to improve battery design for material recovery, and also to boost rates of end-of-life battery material collection. There will also be a focus on increasing collection rates for batteries and increasing the scope to recycle them safely.
However, leaders in the UK recycling industry have called for stronger recycling targets for lithium ion batteries. Currently, the majority of these are dismantled and shipped to Europe, with only a very limited capacity for recycling them in the UK.
Richard McKinley, head of technical development at S. Norton Group, commented: “Current UK regulations include targets which are not robust enough. They do not specify how the target is achieved, leading to a focus on recycling lead-acid batteries, rather than the more problematic lithium-ion batteries.”
“There is no incentive to recycle highly flammable lithium-ion batteries and there are very few outlets for them.”
He added: “This means there is not enough focus on systematically removing, collecting and recycling batteries from items such as waste electricals and the batteries can find their way into other waste streams, creating a high risk of fires across the recycling industry.”
The government is considering introducing a regulatory system for recycled and repurposed batteries to ensure that will align with international standards, and are lab tested and correctly labelled.
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