Facility will be able to treat a sizeable tranche of the UK’s end-of-life vehicles when it comes online in 2024, according to firm
Resource management company Veolia has unveiled plans to build a new recycling plant in the West Midlands that it claims will be capable of processing a fifth of the UK’s end-of-life electric vehicle (EV) batteries in 2024.
The facility, planned for the village of Minworth, would discharge and dismantle batteries before deploying to mechanical and chemical separation recycling processes, Veolia said.
The company told S&P Platts it expected the plan to be able to process 1,000 mt a year of batteries by 2024, a figure expected to amount to 20 per cent of all the UK’s end-of-life EV batteries.
Gavin Graveson, senior executive vice-president of northern Europe at Veolia, said it was critical for the UK to build an ethical and sustainable supply chain for batteries as the EV transition gathered pace.
“We will not reach carbon neutrality without increasing our investment and development of new technologies and recycling opportunities,” he said. “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.”
Veolia said it planned to rollout a full circular economy solution within the next five years that would see it manufacture battery precursor materials across Europe.
Demand for battery materials is set to skyrocket as national phase out dates for petrol and diesel cars and vans draw closer and more and more drivers and businesses switch to EVs. The majority of raw mineral production for EVs happens in Australia, Chile, and China and as such countries are now looking to ramp up recycling facilities and explore domestic reserves to reduce their reliance on foreign imports of battery materials.
Veolia said ‘urban mining’ – or the use of recycled materials – could slash greenhouse gas emissions from EV battery production by more than half, while also reducing water consumption.
An anticipated 350,000 tonnes of end-of-life EV batteries are predicted to need management within the UK by 2040, Veolia said.
Graveson said the firm had decided to build the plant in the UK due to the size of the market and growing domestic demand for local and responsible recycling. “Urban mining is essential if we are to protect raw materials and will in turn create a new, high-skilled industry,” he added.
Veolia’s announcement comes amid a rush of lithium prospecting activity in Cornwall from companies and investors looking to tap the county’s lithium reserves to secure a domestic supply of the mineral.
In related news, UK chemicals company Johnson Matthey and metal recycler European Metal Recycling have announced they are considering partnering to develop a value chain for recycling of lithium-ion batteries in the UK.
Jane Toogood, chief executive of Johnson Matthey’s efficient natural resources sector, said the firm was excited to have signed a memorandum of understanding with EMR that was geared at delivering an “efficient battery refining solution” for the UK market.
“Battery recycling perfectly complements JM’s core expertise in the refining of strategic metals, strengthening our position in developing a sustainable and circular battery value chain,” she said.