French waste management company Veolia has announced its first electric vehicle (EV) battery recycling facility in the UK, which will have the capacity to process 20% of the UK’s end-of-life electric vehicle batteries by 2024, according to the company.
Veolia’s new 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.
The plant will initially discharge and dismantle batteries before the mechanical and chemical separation recycling processes will be completed. In addition, Veolia will utilise its global network to establish a full circular economy solution in the next five years to produce battery precursors in Europe.
Many of the materials required for battery manufacturing rely on traditional water and energy intensive processes. It is estimated that 500,000 gallons of water is required to extract one tonne of lithium using this type of mining. The use of recycled materials, or ‘urban mining’, could reduce water consumption, as well as cut greenhouse gas emissions from battery production by up to 50%.
“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, Veolia Senior Executive Vice-President, Northern Europe Zone.
“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.”
Indeed, Veolia’s aim is for urban mining to unlock the UK’s lithium-ion battery reserves, tapping into the materials tied up in end-of-life batteries.
“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,” Graveson continued.
In September 2020, Veolia and chemical group Solvay formed a partnership with the aim of creating a secure and sustainable source of supply for strategic battery raw materials such as cobalt, nickel and lithium. The Renault Group then joined the partnership in March last year to cooperate in the development of a circular economy for metals from the used batteries of electric vehicles.