IDTechEx asks if recycling can alleviate Li-ion metal supply concerns

Two major drivers of the Li-ion battery recycling market include the increasing demand for battery metals and the motivation to reduce the reliance on unsustainable and unethical mining practices. Recycling batteries alleviates both factors – but to what extent?

Forecast recovery of lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese from the recycling of end-of-life Li-ion batteries and manufacturing scrap. Source: IDTechEx – “Li-ion Battery Recycling Market 2022-2042”

Forecast recovery of lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese from the recycling of end-of-life Li-ion batteries and manufacturing scrap. Source: IDTechEx – “Li-ion Battery Recycling Market 2022-2042”
Human rights abuses such as child labor exploitation and hazardous working conditions have been reported in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where over 70 % of the world’s cobalt mining occurs. Reducing the reliance on these mines for battery metals could help minimize cobalt supplied from unethical sources. While IDTechEx forecast that < 8 % of cobalt demand, and < 6 % of lithium, will be supplied by recycled Li-ion batteries by 2030, a higher percentage could be available. This is especially true for cobalt given its use in consumer electronics, where growth in demand is expected to be much slower than in EVs, and the reduction of cobalt intensity in electric vehicle batteries. In theory, approximately 15 % of cobalt demand could be met from recycled material by 2030. In reality, as outlined in IDTechEx’s forecasts, this is unlikely to happen due to the difficulty in collecting and diverting the high cobalt batteries from consumer electronics. Ultimately, all supply chain stakeholders need to take responsibility for the ethical impacts of their products.

Dr. Alex Holland, Author of the IDTechEx report
© IDTech

Dr. Alex Holland, Author of the IDTechEx report
© IDTech
Nevertheless, the inherent value in consumer electronics batteries suggests more comprehensive collection and distribution to the relevant recycling facilities needs to be considered. This argument can be furthered when considering the increasing possibility of material supply bottlenecks. IDTechEx estimates that cobalt shortages could arise from the mid-late 2020s, with bottlenecks also expected to arise for lithium, and possibly other materials as well. As a result, Li-ion recycling takes on added importance. While it will not be able to meet forecast material demand in the near future, it could play a role in minimizing material shortages and bottlenecks, which would disrupt the transition to electric vehicles, the deployment of stationary energy storage, and depress the market for Li-ion batteries.

End-of-life batteries from electric vehicles (including cars, trucks, 2-wheelers, and buses), consumer electronics, stationary storage, as well as battery manufacturing scrap, were examined to gain a clear view of the potential metal recovery recycling is expected to provide. IDTechEx forecast that a combined total of over 180 000 tonnes of lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese could be recovered by 2030 through Li-ion recycling, a value which is forecast to grow by approximately 10 x by 2042. Recycling will not be a silver bullet and fix all the challenges faced by the Li-ion industry, but it can help the shift toward a circular economy and will play an important role in minimizing material shortages and the negative impacts of Li-ion battery production. For more information on the state of the Li-ion recycling market, please see the IDTechEx report “Li-ion Battery Recycling Market 2022-2042”.

www.IDTechEx.com

Related articles:

Unique models adopted by Li-ion Battery Recycling Start-Ups – investigated by IDTechEx

Unlike typical product exchange business models, recycling is more complex. It provides a service that not only results in a material product but also positive externalities associated with reduced...

more
2021-02 Bætter Recycle project

Thinking battery recycling holistically

To meet the increased demand for raw materials, it is necessary to promote the recovery of spent batteries and successively increase the recovery rates. An important step here is to gear product...

more
2021-04

26th International Congress for Battery Recycling ICBR 2021 will take place in Geneva/Switzerland

ICBR 2021 is the international platform for reviewing the challenges faced by battery producers and the battery recycling industry on a global basis. For over 26 years, ICBR has brought together the...

more

ICBR 2022 Call for Papers is now open

We are happy to announce that the next International Congress for Battery Recycling #ICBR2022 is taking place in Salzburg/Austria, from September 14 to 16, 2022. Are you interested in holding a...

more
2018-06 ICBR 2019

International battery recycling congress in Lyon

As the reference in this fast-moving, complex environment, the conference is essential for battery manufacturers and their materials and supply chain, battery recyclers, electronics and e-mobility...

more