Recycling prevents battery material shortage
October 5, 2020
Industry experts have warned of the dangers of running out of raw materials for batteries used in technology if we fail to recycle used ones.
A surge in sales of devices such as laptops, drones, power tools and e-scooters has seen demand soaring for cobalt and lithium, which are essential for the production of rechargeable lithium batteries that power these devices.
Demand for e-cars, e-bikes, phones, smart watches and fitness monitoring devices are also putting pressure on these two key materials.
In the first six months of 2020 alone, WEEE Ireland reported a 50% increase in rechargeable lithium batteries entering the Irish market.
“The global demand for cobalt has tripled in the past five years but there is a limited supply. We need to find ways to ensure we have sustainable reserves. There’s one simple way to do this and that’s recycling our old devices,” said Leo Donovan of WEEE Ireland.
“Many of us needlessly hold onto end-of-life gadgets that we’ve already replaced, such as phones and laptops, storing them in our attics, spare rooms, sheds and kitchen drawers.
“By doing so, we are unwittingly contributing to an ever-growing supply problem as many of the metals and compounds can’t be recovered to be re-used in the manufacture of new batteries.
“Lithium batteries are a key underpinning technology in the modern world.
“They power mobile devices vital to government, business, healthcare and society and are essential to the decarbonisation of transport, a key goal of the Climate Action Plan (CAP).
“By 2030, the Irish economy will be more dependent on the supply and efficiency of lithium batteries to power transport and communications if we are to meet the CAP and help to limit the effect of climate change.”
As Ireland and the world shifts towards greener technologies, there will be a massive increase in demand for cobalt and lithium.
Research from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) suggests there is not enough capability to mine and process the materials to meet that demand, which could reach 430,000 tonnes in the next decade – 1.6 times today’s capacity.
Separate research from the European Commission reveals the EU will need up to 18 times more lithium and five times more cobalt in 2030 for electric vehicle batteries and energy storage and almost 60 times more lithium and 15 times more cobalt in 2050, compared to the current supply.
Ireland can help to reverse this lack of supply by recycling old batteries responsibly.
“As consumers we can all play our part in increasing supply by recycling all of our end-of-life devices. This can be done by taking them to local authority recycling centres nationwide or any retail store that sells batteries,” said Mr Donovan.
WEEE Ireland represents 96% of the Irish battery industry and 74% of the household electrical and electronic industry, who have a producer responsibility to organise and finance the environmental management of their products at their end of life.
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Pic Caption: Jodie Purcell (12) from Dublin encouraging us all to recycle our old devices. WEEE Ireland, the country’s largest recycling scheme, has warned of the dangers of running out of raw materials for batteries used in technology if we fail to recycle old devices.
Conor McCabe Photography. No Repro Fee.
About WEEE Ireland
WEEE Ireland (Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment) is a not for profit organisation, founded by Producers of electrical and electronic appliances to help them comply with their Extended Producer Responsibilities (EPR) imposed by the EU Battery Directive 2006/66/EC and WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU.
WEEE Ireland manages the collection of household e-waste, lighting and solar PV equipment and batteries from authorised collection points for recycling and recovery, on behalf of over 1,100 producer members.
WEEE Ireland’s objective is to provide cost effective quality compliance for producers to meet the requirements of the regulations whilst minimising the cost to the consumer.
WEEE Ireland supports indigenous recycling facilities with WEEELABEX (European quality recycling standards) certified recycling partnerships.
There are a number of recycling operators certified to the WEEELABEX standard on the Island of Ireland: KMK Metals Recycling Tullamore, Irish Lamp Recycling Athy, ENVA Toomebridge fridge recycling in Northern Ireland and Wistek in Cork.