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E-waste

Good practices in tackling fires caused by lithium batteries in e-waste

A new report compiles good practices addressed to all actors in the value chain and covering all phases of products’ lifecycle.

More and more electrical and electronic products in everyday life contain batteries, making life more convenient and pleasant. However, those same batteries, when damaged, also increasingly cause fires.

In the past few months, organisations representing the industry that manages the collection and treatment of spent batteries and electronic waste (WEEE) along with manufacturers of home appliances and consumer electronics, gathered to exchange views about this issue of growing concern in order to design measures to counter the frequent occurrence of fires. A survey among recyclers resulted in a better understanding of the issue of fires in the WEEE management chain. The report , “Recommendations for tackling fires caused by lithium batteries in WEEE”, has been prepared by the WEEE Forum and EuRIC with the active contribution of experts from various organisations including the co-signatories EERA, EUCOBAT, Municipal Waste Europe and the WEEELABEX Organisation. The report presents a set of recommendations and good practices aimed at countering the occurrence of fire incidents caused by lithium batteries and WEEE containing lithium batteries.

“The report concludes that there is not a magic formula that will eradicate the risk of fires caused by WEEE containing batteries”, says the WEEE Forum. “It is imperative that actions are taken urgently in all steps of the lifecycles of EEE and lithium batteries and by all actors in the value chain: from design to disposal of WEEE and batteries including the consideration of transport and treatment. For this, further work to assess the extent of the issue and potential solutions is required’’.

A thermal event may become a severe incident if is not rapidly detected and extinguished. Training, prevention, and detection measures are therefore essential for identifying and tackling risky situations. The report comprises recommendations and good practices addressed to the main participants in the steps of the EEE and WEEE value chain and includes recommendations to producer responsibility organisations of EEE and batteries, to local authorities, and policy makers.

“The European Green Deal and the new Circular Economy Action Plan identify ‘electronics’ among key product value chains where recycling plays a major role in achieving sustainability goals. Battery fires are a genuine challenge for the recycling industry and the entire value chain. Properly addressing the risk of fires caused by WEEE containing lithium batteries through a multi-stakeholder approach is essential to support electronics’ recyclers which play an essential role in the achievement of the EU’s overarching sustainability goals”, says EuRIC.

Download the report

Good practices in tackling fires caused by lithium batteries in e-waste

A new report compiles good practices addressed to all actors in the value chain and covering all phases of products’ lifecycle.

More and more electrical and electronic products in everyday life contain batteries, making life more convenient and pleasant. However, those same batteries, when damaged, also increasingly cause fires.

In the past few months, organisations representing the industry that manages the collection and treatment of spent batteries and electronic waste (WEEE) along with manufacturers of home appliances and consumer electronics, gathered to exchange views about this issue of growing concern in order to design measures to counter the frequent occurrence of fires. A survey among recyclers resulted in a better understanding of the issue of fires in the WEEE management chain. The report , “Recommendations for tackling fires caused by lithium batteries in WEEE”, has been prepared by the WEEE Forum and EuRIC with the active contribution of experts from various organisations including the co-signatories EERA, EUCOBAT, Municipal Waste Europe and the WEEELABEX Organisation. The report presents a set of recommendations and good practices aimed at countering the occurrence of fire incidents caused by lithium batteries and WEEE containing lithium batteries.

“The report concludes that there is not a magic formula that will eradicate the risk of fires caused by WEEE containing batteries”, says the WEEE Forum. “It is imperative that actions are taken urgently in all steps of the lifecycles of EEE and lithium batteries and by all actors in the value chain: from design to disposal of WEEE and batteries including the consideration of transport and treatment. For this, further work to assess the extent of the issue and potential solutions is required’’.

A thermal event may become a severe incident if is not rapidly detected and extinguished. Training, prevention, and detection measures are therefore essential for identifying and tackling risky situations. The report comprises recommendations and good practices addressed to the main participants in the steps of the EEE and WEEE value chain and includes recommendations to producer responsibility organisations of EEE and batteries, to local authorities, and policy makers.

“The European Green Deal and the new Circular Economy Action Plan identify ‘electronics’ among key product value chains where recycling plays a major role in achieving sustainability goals. Battery fires are a genuine challenge for the recycling industry and the entire value chain. Properly addressing the risk of fires caused by WEEE containing lithium batteries through a multi-stakeholder approach is essential to support electronics’ recyclers which play an essential role in the achievement of the EU’s overarching sustainability goals”, says EuRIC.

Download the report

Stena Recycling invests in new battery recycling plant

The investment involves a brand new facility in Halmstad and will make it possible to recycle 95 percent of a lithium-ion battery, which is the most common battery used in electric vehicles.

This autumn, the first ground will be broken on what will become Sweden’s, and one of Europe’s, most advanced battery recycling facilities. The new plant represents an investment of around 250 million SEK and will be located adjacent to the Stena Nordic Recycling Center in Halmstad.

“We see a strong growth in the sale of electric vehicles where we need to meet our customers’ needs to dispose of spent batteries in a safe and environmentally sound way. This major investment is part of our strategy to be a leader in the collection and mechanical processing of lithium-ion batteries to establish a circular cycle for batteries,” says Fredrik Pettersson, Managing Director of Stena Recycling Sweden.

According to EV-volumes.com, sales of electric vehicles increased by 43 percent globally in 2020. Furthermore, the number of lithium-ion batteries used in vehicles is expected to increase almost tenfold over the next decade, according to a report by Circular Energy Storage Research & Consulting.

“We are now responding to market demand. We are proud to offer a circular solution for lithium-ion batteries. It will be a big win for the environment and for the life cycle of the batteries when we recover critical metals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt, which are in short supply, worldwide,” says Fredrik Pettersson.

The batteries will initially be collected via Stena Recycling’s 90 facilities in Sweden, and eventually via other countries where Stena Recycling operates. Initial sorting takes place at these facilities, but most of the recycling is then done at the new facility in Halmstad. A collaboration with the multinational company Johnson Matthey also adds another process step to produce fully refined materials that can be used in the production of new lithium-ion batteries. Closing the loop and creating new raw materials for batteries from recycling is crucial to achieving a circular raw materials chain.

“There are plenty of major players looking to enter this market, but few have Stena Recycling’s capabilities based on our existing infrastructure, customer base, expertise and experience. Thanks to this investment, we are taking a step towards becoming one of Europe’s leading players in battery recycling,” says Fredrik Pettersson, Managing Director of Stena Recycling Sweden.

Stena Recycling invests in new battery recycling plant

The investment involves a brand new facility in Halmstad and will make it possible to recycle 95 percent of a lithium-ion battery, which is the most common battery used in electric vehicles.

This autumn, the first ground will be broken on what will become Sweden’s, and one of Europe’s, most advanced battery recycling facilities. The new plant represents an investment of around 250 million SEK and will be located adjacent to the Stena Nordic Recycling Center in Halmstad.

“We see a strong growth in the sale of electric vehicles where we need to meet our customers’ needs to dispose of spent batteries in a safe and environmentally sound way. This major investment is part of our strategy to be a leader in the collection and mechanical processing of lithium-ion batteries to establish a circular cycle for batteries,” says Fredrik Pettersson, Managing Director of Stena Recycling Sweden.

According to EV-volumes.com, sales of electric vehicles increased by 43 percent globally in 2020. Furthermore, the number of lithium-ion batteries used in vehicles is expected to increase almost tenfold over the next decade, according to a report by Circular Energy Storage Research & Consulting.

“We are now responding to market demand. We are proud to offer a circular solution for lithium-ion batteries. It will be a big win for the environment and for the life cycle of the batteries when we recover critical metals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt, which are in short supply, worldwide,” says Fredrik Pettersson.

The batteries will initially be collected via Stena Recycling’s 90 facilities in Sweden, and eventually via other countries where Stena Recycling operates. Initial sorting takes place at these facilities, but most of the recycling is then done at the new facility in Halmstad. A collaboration with the multinational company Johnson Matthey also adds another process step to produce fully refined materials that can be used in the production of new lithium-ion batteries. Closing the loop and creating new raw materials for batteries from recycling is crucial to achieving a circular raw materials chain.

“There are plenty of major players looking to enter this market, but few have Stena Recycling’s capabilities based on our existing infrastructure, customer base, expertise and experience. Thanks to this investment, we are taking a step towards becoming one of Europe’s leading players in battery recycling,” says Fredrik Pettersson, Managing Director of Stena Recycling Sweden.

WEEEForum: “Consumer is the key to Circular Economy”

According to the UN, in 2021 each person on the planet will produce on average 7.6 kg of e-waste, meaning that a massive 57.4 million tonnes will be generated worldwide. Only 17.4 per cent of this electronic waste containing a mixture of harmful substances and precious materials will be recorded as being properly collected, treated and recycled. Many initiatives are undertaken to tackle this growing concern, but none of them can be fully effective without the active role and correct education of consumers.

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a perceptible effect on our use of electronics and digital solutions, with people relying on e-products to keep them connected with work colleagues and in their family and social life. This has not only meant a greater use of technology in the home, it has also led to an increase in the consumption of e-products. According to a study commissioned by the European Parliament, within the European Union the demand for personal computers and tablets rose by almost 5% year-on-year until December 2020. In this context it is even more important to make users aware of the options that exist for their end-of-life equipment.

In the past editions of #ewasteday, the activities of the Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs) in the WEEE Forum and other participants ranged from conferences and events, through school and city collection campaigns to competitions and games. In the 2020 edition lots of creativity was shown to raise awareness in accordance with the Covid restrictions and many great online (and physical where possible) activities took place (see here for details of the last edition) carried out by more than 120 companies from over 50 countries covering all continents.

“Education and awareness are powerful tools for preventing waste and boosting separate collection and quality treatment. If you need to climb a mountain you need the right tools. International E-Waste Day is the right kind of tool” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment in his dedicated message last year. This is one of the reasons why this year too, the WEEE Forum invite all organisations sensitive to the issue of effective and circular e-waste management to plan awareness raising activities for 14 October and join this common effort by registering here. Any action promoting sound e-waste collection, repair, reuse or recycling is welcome in the frame of International E-Waste Day. Registered participants will get access to the official promotional materials.

WEEEForum: “Consumer is the key to Circular Economy”

According to the UN, in 2021 each person on the planet will produce on average 7.6 kg of e-waste, meaning that a massive 57.4 million tonnes will be generated worldwide. Only 17.4 per cent of this electronic waste containing a mixture of harmful substances and precious materials will be recorded as being properly collected, treated and recycled. Many initiatives are undertaken to tackle this growing concern, but none of them can be fully effective without the active role and correct education of consumers.

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a perceptible effect on our use of electronics and digital solutions, with people relying on e-products to keep them connected with work colleagues and in their family and social life. This has not only meant a greater use of technology in the home, it has also led to an increase in the consumption of e-products. According to a study commissioned by the European Parliament, within the European Union the demand for personal computers and tablets rose by almost 5% year-on-year until December 2020. In this context it is even more important to make users aware of the options that exist for their end-of-life equipment.

In the past editions of #ewasteday, the activities of the Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs) in the WEEE Forum and other participants ranged from conferences and events, through school and city collection campaigns to competitions and games. In the 2020 edition lots of creativity was shown to raise awareness in accordance with the Covid restrictions and many great online (and physical where possible) activities took place (see here for details of the last edition) carried out by more than 120 companies from over 50 countries covering all continents.

“Education and awareness are powerful tools for preventing waste and boosting separate collection and quality treatment. If you need to climb a mountain you need the right tools. International E-Waste Day is the right kind of tool” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment in his dedicated message last year. This is one of the reasons why this year too, the WEEE Forum invite all organisations sensitive to the issue of effective and circular e-waste management to plan awareness raising activities for 14 October and join this common effort by registering here. Any action promoting sound e-waste collection, repair, reuse or recycling is welcome in the frame of International E-Waste Day. Registered participants will get access to the official promotional materials.

WEEEForum: “Consumer is the key to Circular Economy”

According to the UN, in 2021 each person on the planet will produce on average 7.6 kg of e-waste, meaning that a massive 57.4 million tonnes will be generated worldwide. Only 17.4 per cent of this electronic waste containing a mixture of harmful substances and precious materials will be recorded as being properly collected, treated and recycled. Many initiatives are undertaken to tackle this growing concern, but none of them can be fully effective without the active role and correct education of consumers.

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a perceptible effect on our use of electronics and digital solutions, with people relying on e-products to keep them connected with work colleagues and in their family and social life. This has not only meant a greater use of technology in the home, it has also led to an increase in the consumption of e-products. According to a study commissioned by the European Parliament, within the European Union the demand for personal computers and tablets rose by almost 5% year-on-year until December 2020. In this context it is even more important to make users aware of the options that exist for their end-of-life equipment.

In the past editions of #ewasteday, the activities of the Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs) in the WEEE Forum and other participants ranged from conferences and events, through school and city collection campaigns to competitions and games. In the 2020 edition lots of creativity was shown to raise awareness in accordance with the Covid restrictions and many great online (and physical where possible) activities took place (see here for details of the last edition) carried out by more than 120 companies from over 50 countries covering all continents.

“Education and awareness are powerful tools for preventing waste and boosting separate collection and quality treatment. If you need to climb a mountain you need the right tools. International E-Waste Day is the right kind of tool” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment in his dedicated message last year. This is one of the reasons why this year too, the WEEE Forum invite all organisations sensitive to the issue of effective and circular e-waste management to plan awareness raising activities for 14 October and join this common effort by registering here. Any action promoting sound e-waste collection, repair, reuse or recycling is welcome in the frame of International E-Waste Day. Registered participants will get access to the official promotional materials.

Official launch of the BATT4EU Partnership

On 23 June 2021, during the European Research and Innovation Days, the European Commission and BEPA – the Batteries European Partnership Association – signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) officially launching BATT4EU – the co-programmed partnership under Horizon Europe (the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation of the European Union).

BATT4EU is a public-private partnership that aims to develop a world-class European research and innovation ecosystem on batteries for both stationary and mobile applications. This initiative is mainly motivated by the fact that only a long-lasting and coordinated effort involving industry, research and the public sector can live up to the challenge and bring predictability to the European battery stakeholders.

Michael Lippert, Chair of BEPA, commented “With more than 165 members, BEPA shows that in Europe there is a great interest as well as know-how for the development of a competitive battery value chain. Thanks to BATT4EU, the European battery community will work hands in hands to prepare Europe to manufacture and commercialise by 2030 the next-generation battery technologies that will enable the rollout of the zero-emission mobility and renewable energy storage, thus directly contributing to the success of the European Green Deal.”

Rosalinde van der Vlies, Director Clean Planet for DG RTD adds: “The partnerships with industry that are being supported in Horizon Europe are ambitious, impact-driven initiatives that respond to EU policy priorities. The BATT4EU partnership contributes directly to the goals of the European Green Deal by enabling widespread adoption of e-mobility and stationary electrical energy storage. It will also create economic growth and jobs in a circular economy by developing an innovative, competitive and sustainable battery manufacturing industry in Europe. I particularly look forward to the synergies BATT4EU will create with other partnerships to ensure maximum impact, and wish for our common success with BEPA!”

As the EU aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, batteries have a key role in the clean energy transition by helping to decarbonise transport and enable a higher integration of renewable energy sources in our electricity mix.

The demand for batteries is continuously growing, however, the production of batteries is still highly concentrated in Asia: for instance, less than 1% of global lithium-ion battery cells are currently manufactured in Europe, compared to over 90% in Asia.

Europe needs to catch up in this important area and it will do so by putting environmental sustainability and circularity at the heart of its battery production in order to address the ambitions of the green energy transition.

By mobilising 925 million euros, the partnership will boost research and innovation to develop a variety of differentiated technologies that will result in a competitive, sustainable and circular European battery value chain.

Official launch of the BATT4EU Partnership

On 23 June 2021, during the European Research and Innovation Days, the European Commission and BEPA – the Batteries European Partnership Association – signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) officially launching BATT4EU – the co-programmed partnership under Horizon Europe (the next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation of the European Union).

BATT4EU is a public-private partnership that aims to develop a world-class European research and innovation ecosystem on batteries for both stationary and mobile applications. This initiative is mainly motivated by the fact that only a long-lasting and coordinated effort involving industry, research and the public sector can live up to the challenge and bring predictability to the European battery stakeholders.

Michael Lippert, Chair of BEPA, commented “With more than 165 members, BEPA shows that in Europe there is a great interest as well as know-how for the development of a competitive battery value chain. Thanks to BATT4EU, the European battery community will work hands in hands to prepare Europe to manufacture and commercialise by 2030 the next-generation battery technologies that will enable the rollout of the zero-emission mobility and renewable energy storage, thus directly contributing to the success of the European Green Deal.”

Rosalinde van der Vlies, Director Clean Planet for DG RTD adds: “The partnerships with industry that are being supported in Horizon Europe are ambitious, impact-driven initiatives that respond to EU policy priorities. The BATT4EU partnership contributes directly to the goals of the European Green Deal by enabling widespread adoption of e-mobility and stationary electrical energy storage. It will also create economic growth and jobs in a circular economy by developing an innovative, competitive and sustainable battery manufacturing industry in Europe. I particularly look forward to the synergies BATT4EU will create with other partnerships to ensure maximum impact, and wish for our common success with BEPA!”

As the EU aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, batteries have a key role in the clean energy transition by helping to decarbonise transport and enable a higher integration of renewable energy sources in our electricity mix.

The demand for batteries is continuously growing, however, the production of batteries is still highly concentrated in Asia: for instance, less than 1% of global lithium-ion battery cells are currently manufactured in Europe, compared to over 90% in Asia.

Europe needs to catch up in this important area and it will do so by putting environmental sustainability and circularity at the heart of its battery production in order to address the ambitions of the green energy transition.

By mobilising 925 million euros, the partnership will boost research and innovation to develop a variety of differentiated technologies that will result in a competitive, sustainable and circular European battery value chain.

Electrification: Opportunities and obstacles for battery recycling

Whilst at present only 20% of energy consumed in the industrial sector is electric, according to McKinsey’s latest projections, this figure could be as high as 50% using technologies available today.

Faced with growing demand, the global industrial battery market is expected to experience an annual growth rate of 6% from 2020 to 2027 according to the latest report from Grand View Research. Whilst at present, lead-acid remains the dominant battery type, accounting for over 47% of the market share, demand for lithium-ion batteries is increasing as well, as it becomes a more commercial option and is expected to increase at an annual growth rate of 15.70% within the forecast period.

But as we look ahead to a world in which the industrial sector is becoming increasingly electrified, one issue looms large: how are we going to handle the sheer volume of battery waste?

If left in a landfill site, both lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries have the potential to leach toxic materials to the surrounding area, causing severe damage to both people and the environment. The same can be said for so-called ‘backyard recycling’, an extremely dangerous and damaging practice of unregulated recycling by individuals or unqualified firms, which has resulted in cases of lead contamination worldwide.

It’s an issue that global health and development organisations are all too aware of, with lead-acid batteries being labelled one of the world’s worst pollution problems by NGOs Pure Green and Green Cross Switzerland in 2016.

In Greece, where Sunlight is headquartered, the situation was, until very recently, particularly dire. Four years ago, just 51% of used scrap batteries were legally recycled or collected compared to the European average figure of 95%, with the remaining 49% suspected to have been disposed of or recycled illegally, contributing to environmental lead contamination.

Sunlight’s response was to create our own EMAS-certified recycling facility for lead acid batteries in 2014, which has enabled us to employ the circular economy model.

Through facilities such as this one, trusted manufacturers are capable of recycling up to 95% of lead-acid batteries. Not only does this achieve vertical integration of the lead supply but also provides better control over the composition and quality of lead alloys. As well as providing better control over the delivery timelines of lead needed to produce new batteries, inhouse recycling also comes with an economic benefit – the reduced importing cost of the lead needed to make new batteries.

Through this circular economy model, we produce 60% of our production unit’s demand in lead. However more demand means that other manufacturers need to follow suit, particularly in the Asia-Pacific where a large amount of the global supply of industrial batteries is developed.

Whilst facilities such as this are paving the way for lead-acid battery recycling, such sophisticated facilities for the recycling of lithium-ion remain scarce. Thus, whilst at present innovation allows for the recycling of up to 95% of a lead-acid battery, for lithium this figure stands below 50%.

As a relatively new commercial battery technology, the chemistry, shape and design of lithium batteries varies enormously between manufacturers. As such, in order for them to be recycled efficiently, they need to be disassembled, and the resulting waste streams separated, however at the present moment there is still no way to recycle the electrode.

Whilst universities and research centres are still at the early stages of finding a solution to recycling the entire lithium battery, there are still grounds for optimism when it comes to reusing this material. When a lithium-ion battery reaches the end of its life, it still retains around 80% of its charge, which can then be used to power another battery.

But with the total amount of lithium-ion batteries expected to reach 7.8 million tonnes per year by 2040, according to a report from IDTechEx, it’s anticipated that the global supply of end-of-life batteries will surpass their demand in second-life applications.
Similarly, not all lithium-ion batteries will be reusable – those that are damaged, for instance, will need recycling instantly. And of course, batteries do eventually die for good. Therefore, there is a need for a forward-thinking approach to recycling to ensure efficient long-term management of waste.

The pandemic has generated more stimulus by governments across the world to rebuild economies through the investment of green companies and jobs. So, if we’re serious about making this a reality, we must prioritize sustainable recycling of batteries on a global scale – and it must start with battery manufacturers taking responsibility for managing the waste created by their products – whether that’s through recycling or the reusing of materials.

For further information on Systems Sunlight recycling capabilities, please visit: https://www.greenmission.gr/en/.