BIR Abu Dhabi 2023 - Electrics, Electronics and EV Batteries Committee: New look for BIR electrics, electronics and battery experts
The final session of the BIR World Recycling Convention in Abu Dhabi marked the arrival of a new, forward-looking group. Formerly known as the E-Scrap Committee, BIR’s Electrics, Electronics and EV Batteries Committee (EEEVB) has come into being to reflect the changing nature of the industry.
The EEEVB session on 24 October was headed by the new Chairwoman, Josephita Harry, Vice-President, Sales at Pan American Zinc LLC in the USA. Welcoming delegates, she repeated the new name for emphasis. “You will notice I didn’t use the word scrap or waste. It’s a very small change in the name but I consider it a very big step forward in the direction to acknowledge the importance of the work we do as an industry that recycles important materials and brings it back into the value chain.”
The first presentation was on black mass product derived from battery recycling, delivered by first guest speaker Leah Chen, Editor and Senior Pricing Specialist Non-Ferrous Metals at S&P Global Commodity Insights Singapore office. She explained how black mass is produced from the shredding process and contains valuable metals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel. The two main processes for treating black mass used in the industry today are hydrometallurgy or pyrometallurgy.
Ms Chen noted that the EU’s Critical Raw Materials Act and the Inflation Reduction Act in the US were significant drivers for battery recycling while Japan is developing a domestic recycling system and, in South Korea, car giant Hyundai has a private sector alliance with major battery makers. “In China they have this ‘white list’ with about 57 battery manufacturing and recycling companies,” she said. ‘Major manufacturers have publicly declared they will work only with companies on the list and the qualification to be on it is very stringent. For example, the required combined recovery rate for manganese, cobalt and nickel is no lower than 98%.”
Ms Chen said only about 5% of lithium-ion batteries were being recycled and her analytical team was forecasting that by 2030, 15% of lithium would be from either recycled batteries or scrap; 12% for nickel and 44% for cobalt, which can be secured from a wider range of products. Nearly two-thirds of black mass would come from NMC or LFP batteries, currently the dominant types. Ms Chen said Platts had launched nine black mass prices for China and Europe at the start of the year and in September established four more in the USA.
The second guest speaker, BK Soni, Chairman and Managing Director of Ecoreco in India, pointed out that global sales of electrical and electronic equipment is about US$ 3,750 billion. The cost of recycling the global e-waste generation of 75 million tonnes is US$ 75 billion while the recovered content would be worth US$ 150 billion. “So why do producers still hesitate to put in 2% of their sales value into the EPR system and ensure that the entire model gets recycled properly?’ Mr Soni asked. He thought the capex costs for recycling infrastructure was hampering investment in developing economies. He also pointed out that per capita waste of 10kg cost US$ 10 to recover and so “a nominal investment” would guarantee improved health, safety and environment.
“It is not cost-effective for the developed economies to recycle completely and for the developing economies it will take some more years to recycle up to the level of developed nations. I personally believe that by 2030, 50% of the global generation of e-waste will get recycled. The question arises, why not 100%?” Mr Soni said it was because of a “viability gap” between the cost of recovering commodities and the value of commodities recovered. Viable EPR schemes were essential to create the markets, he argued.
BIR’s Trade & Environment Director Alev Somer set out an impending change to the Basel Convention which covers transboundary movements of e-waste – as it is called under the convention. Starting from 1 January 2025, all e-waste moved across the international borders of the 191 parties to the convention will be subject to a strict control procedure and governments will decide if they want e-waste imports from other countries – known as prior informed consent (PIC).
Ms Somer advised that recyclers had to be prepared in advance to get the PIC procedure in place but she cautioned the system was neither harmonised nor electronic worldwide. She said BIR was pushing both Basel and the OECD to simplify transborder arrangements. “We should hammer the message from the business side how important it is to have an electronic and simplified PIC procedure,” she concluded, adding it was under consideration by a Basel working group but it would take several years to reach a result.