The Spanish Federation for Recovery and Recycling (FER) welcomes the European regulations that establish minimum contents of recycled materials in the manufacture of various batteries (including vehicles) for the transition of Europe towards clean and self-sufficient energy.
The new European Union Battery Regulation, published last Friday, July 28, replaces the current Battery Directive of 2006 and completes the existing legislation, especially regarding waste management. As soon as this regulation was published, the Spanish Recovery and Recycling Federation (FER) has indicated, in the words of its president, Ion Olaeta, that companies in the sector “are prepared to face this great challenge of accelerating the transition of Europe towards a clean and self-sufficient energy”.
Under the umbrella of the European Green Pact, the new regulation will promote the development of a competitive and sustainable cell and battery industry that supports the transition towards a circular economy model, with special attention to the electrification project of the European mobile fleet and the capacity of treatment of this waste in Europe.
Global demand for cells and batteries is growing rapidly and is projected to grow 14-fold by 2030, with the EU potentially accounting for 17% of that demand. This is mainly due to the electrification of transport. This global exponential increase in the demand for batteries will lead to an equivalent increase in the demand for raw materials and hence the need to minimize their impact on the environment.
IN INTERNAL KEY
Spain is no stranger to the growth of the battery market and the progressive increase in its demand. “In the aggregate evolution (batteries, batteries and accumulators) of quantities placed on the market, the year-on-year increase of 12% registered in 2021 stands out, which contrasts with the stagnation of previous years”, explained the head of FER. “For the entire series considered, 2017-2021, growth was 9.9%, driven by the portable (+34%) and industrial (+24.3%) typologies, compared to the lower dynamism of automotive (+2, 9%)”, he added.
This last data defines the particularities of battery consumption in each Member State. “The role of the automotive segment, which accounts for 65.8% of the total volume recorded in 2021, is 4.5 percentage points lower than in 2017,” Olaeta has indicated.
On the other hand, the regulation gradually introduces sustainability requirements in terms of carbon footprint, recycled content and performance and durability. For example, for electric vehicle batteries and some industrial batteries, the obligation is established to have their carbon footprint calculated and the placing on the market of those that exceed certain values will be prohibited.
In addition, the collection rates must be higher for the waste batteries and portable batteries that must reach the producers. Thus, for portable batteries, the targets before the end of each year will be 45% in 2023, 63% in 2027 and 73% in 2030, while, in the case of batteries from light means of transport, the target before the end of each year it will be 51% in 2028 and 61% in 2031. In turn, all batteries collected must be recycled and must achieve high levels of recovery, especially of valuable materials such as copper, cobalt , lithium, nickel and lead.
This will ensure that valuable materials are recovered at the end of their useful life and re-entered into the economy by adopting more stringent targets for material recovery and recycling efficiency over time. The recovery targets for lithium materials will be 50% by the end of 2027 and 80% by the end of 2031.
In order to achieve such ambitious goals, “the Spanish recycling industry will continue to invest in R+D+i”, assured the president of FER, “and, in addition to the location of gigafactories for the production of lithium batteries from various automotive manufacturers In Spain, we also have local projects such as the battery recycling plant that Endesa will install in León at the end of 2024, with the capacity to recycle 15,000 tons of batteries”.
MINIMUM CONTENT OF RECYCLED MATERIAL
The regulation establishes that all batteries for electric vehicles, starters and certain industrial ones must contain, as of August 18, 2031, a minimum content of recycled materials in their manufacture, such as cobalt, lead, lithium or nickel.
“For those of us dedicated to waste management, this measure is the best news for the circular economy, since the demand for material from recycling is encouraged,” says Ion.
Likewise, the various labels incorporated in the cell or battery or in its packaging will also inform about the useful life, the load capacity, the needs for separate collection, the presence of dangerous substances and security risks. The QR code that must be stamped or engraved on the cell or battery, depending on its type, grants access to information that is relevant to the cell or battery in question.
Certain batteries such as those in electric vehicles will contain a battery management system that stores the information and data necessary to determine the state of health and useful life. Of course, not all are positive aspects, there is concern about the setback that can occur in the preparation for the reuse of batteries, since requirements have been included that do not add environmental value and may limit the number of batteries that can be reused.
In addition, the access of authorized operators to the battery waste management market may be limited.
NEW MARKET OPPORTUNITIES
The provisions established in the regulation open new market opportunities, by regulating how to adapt electric traction batteries that are out of use in stationary for, for example, photovoltaic solar energy, which is known as “preparing for adaptation”.
Finally, the regulations stipulate a “digital passport” to know technical data about the battery and, as of February 18, 2027, the economic operator that introduces an industrial battery, light traction or a battery for electric vehicles on the market will ensure that the information included in your passport is accurate, complete and up-to-date.
In the words of Ion, “the digital passport is a measure that battery managers applaud as it can help us with treatment tasks, providing information on the content of the waste that we are going to recycle. This measure may be implemented in other products”.
“The recycling industry will firmly support compliance with this Regulation, key to setting clear rules of the game for the entire value chain and, with this, ensuring traceability and the principles established in the waste hierarchy”, concluded the highest FER manager.
The Spanish Federation for Recovery and Recycling was created in 1982 in order to bring together and defend the interests of companies dedicated to recycling waste in different economic, social and environmental fields. FER currently has 293 members and represents more than 435 waste management companies (ferrous and non-ferrous metals, electrical and electronic equipment, end-of-life tires, end-of-life vehicles, packaging or wood, among others). The federation represents 90% of the volume of the sector for the recovery of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, as well as 60% of end-of-life tire recyclers. Within FER are also 80% of the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) treaters and 100% of the metal shredding industry in Spain. The recycling sector currently generates 30,000 direct and 105,000 indirect jobs in Spain.
FER is a corporate member of UNE (Spanish Association for Standardization) and is part of SIGRAUTO (Spanish Association for the Environmental Treatment of End-of-Life Vehicles), the Spanish Federation for Recycling and the Environment (FERMA), or the Spanish Confederation of Metal Business Organizations (CONFEMETAL). Internationally, it is a member of the World Recycling Council (BIR) and is part of its International Environmental Council, it is a member of the European Confederation of Recycling Industries (EuRIC) and its divisions of plastics (EPRB), textiles ( EuRIC Textiles), tires (EuRIC MTR), ferrous metals (EFR) and non-ferrous metals (EUROMETREC). Likewise, it maintains contacts with CEOE and associations of recoverers of other materials such as paper and cardboard, wood, plastics and glass, with which it has created the Recovery Forum.