‘The scarcity of certain raw materials will bring the battery recycling industry into a strategic position,’ according to Michel Catinat, EU advisor to the European Commission’s Economic Directorate and one of the keynote speakers at the ICBR 2010, held in Brussels on 15-17 September.
Battery recycling is a rapidly developing branch of the global recycling industry. But many challenges must be resolved as new power storage chemistries and techniques are changing the face of the sector, it emerged at the event.
Some 185 delegates from 26 countries converged on the Conrad Hotel in Brussels to discuss latest developments relating to the recycling of end-of-life batteries. Staged by Swiss congress organiser ICM AG, the three-day event was supported by prominent organisations and companies with an interest in this field. Many delegates took up the invitation for the final day of the congress to visit the world’s largest precious metals refiner Umicore, and fellow Belgian battery recyclers Campine and Revatech.
Among other issues, speakers updated delegates on new legislation, recycling achievements and new technologies. A point of particular interest at the world’s leading event for the battery recycling industry was the recycling of lithium-containing storage devices. It was noted that this increasingly popular battery constituent can become highly explosive if certain unstable conditions arise within a battery. Over recent years, several recycling plants have experienced fires which can be attributed to these devices. During the panel discussion in Brussels, there was a call for more research into the behaviour of old and damaged batteries.
Battery recycling makes an important contribution to the raw materials chain, but major differences exist between battery types. While lead from lead-acid car batteries is almost 100% recycled around the globe, less valuable batteries are still landfilled. Representing the Middle East, Mr Maroun Charabati of the Beaatoona organisation is working to create awareness among school pupils. ‘If you teach schoolchildren to recycle batteries, their parents will tend to adapt that new behaviour,’ he told the audience.
In Western Europe, meanwhile, battery collection rates are increasing as countries implement EU legislation. ‘We want to have a resource-efficient Europe,’ concluded Soledad Blanco, Senior Administrator at the European Commission’s Environment Directorate. ‘We will support the shift towards a resource-efficient and low-carbon economy, decoupling economic growth from resource and energy use.’
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