There was much information to absorb at the recent 21st International Automotive Recycling Congress, held on the 5th and 7th of July in Basel, Switzerland. The two-day event focused on the many aspects of the vehicle recycling industry and attracted speakers and delegates from around the world. It provided an environment for the exchange of views plus the opportunity to get up to date with the latest developments in the industry.
Day one began with Oliver Ganser from BMW Group Germany providing a keynote speech focusing on the Catena-X project – a proposed multi-vendor ecosystem. He shared information for all those involved in a vehicle’s value chain. Following Oliver was another keynote speaker, Frank Schluter from Scania, who presented the potential consequences for HDV manufacturers and dismantlers if such vehicles were incorporated into the upcoming amended ELV directive.
The topic of the ELV directive continued with a panel discussion including Jaco Huisman, Policy Officer for ELVs, European Commission. Before the discussion began, Jaco provided a short presentation to bring the audience up to date with the directive indicating it would most probably be in a regulation format similar to the battery directive. However, he did state that all measures were still on the table with no proposal expected this year for various reasons and the first quarter of 2023 being a more realistic date.
The afternoon focused on the circular economy and the new technologies to make it feasible. Presentations included research on the next generation of floatation systems, and the strategic importance ferrous scrap will play in the decarbonisation efforts of the steel sector. Christian Mlinar from Bernegger GmbH concluded the session by looking at how they process a briquette from shredder residue and how their products can be used in various industries, including heating households.
The day concluded with another panel discussion, focussing on integrating battery metals into a profitable business model. When asked, a large majority of the audience disagreed that the proposed ban on producing fossil fuel vehicles by 2035 would be a reality. However, those on the panel representing companies such as LKQ, Li-Cycle, Batterybox and Glencore highlighted the preparations and investments they were making for how EV batteries will be recovered and recycled when they reach their predicted volumes.
The conversation also covered topics including what chemistries will survive and the relationship with battery suppliers. Christoph Schon from LKQ Europe echoed the need to speak to OEMs about EV battery design to recycle the units more easily.
Wednesday began by looking at the strategic role of battery metals in the automotive and recycling industry. Lee Butler from Glencore and Dr Xue Wang, co-founder of Suzhou Botree, spoke about the challenges of sourcing materials and recovering them into battery-ready materials. They discussed evolution, the uncertainty surrounding feedstock, the speed at which battery technology is progressing, and the need for collaboration in the supply chain. Also, Dr Wang generated much interest when she reported on a portable mini-plant for direct recycling and their wish to have something similar operating in Europe.
The day’s keynote speaker was Dr Michel Monteil, Switzerland’s Head of Waste and Resources Division Federal Office for the Environment. In his presentation, he brought the delegates’ attention to the EVA project, which will optimise the recovery of rare technology metals from WEEE embedded in vehicles. He also outlined CircuBAT, which aims to connect major stakeholders along the complete lifecycle of lithium-ion batteries in vehicles. He also hinted at a desire to remove and sort all vehicle electronics before shredding.
Martijn Traas from Van der Ven Auto Recycling in the Netherlands began the next session by stating how his company generates over 150,000 green car parts a year. In his presentation, he outlined the challenges dismantlers are currently facing, including a need for parts data and the improvements needed to include inventory systems for companies to work together both nationally and internationally. He concluded that dismantlers can be seen as professional partners in the parts supply chain, how OEM parts data availability is a must, investment in good tools and knowledge for dismantling electric vehicles was imperative, and finally, how working together is key.
In the same session, Olivier Gaudeau from Indra, France, asked, “Will the ELV sector remain profitable with electric vehicles? He stated that ELV ATFs needed to transform themselves and focus on administrative management processes, skill development and plant redesign. He concluded that there was only one way to stay profitable, and this was for ATFs to be able to qualify batteries SOH without hacking any calculators and how it would be up to the OEMs to balance the deficit with an EPR. He said it was up to the OEM and ATF sectors to quickly find solutions and make agreements regarding battery diagnostic tools and trading and traceability rules.
After a presentation from SEDA’s Sebastian Raubinger surrounding the training, equipment and location of recycling EVs, EGARA’s Henk Jan Nix looked at the role of ATFs in battery circularity. In his presentation, he drew focus on the battery recycling hierarchy and the battery directive, especially article 52 and how no operator should be discriminated against on where to sell batteries as long as it is done responsibly to authorised buyers.
The afternoon session began with how plastics contribute to the circular economy. Hervé Demoulin from Comet Traitements in Belgium looked at the concept of producing high secondary and critical thermoplastics and raw materials out of mixed WEEE – ELVs. Klaus Weber representing Borealis, discussed Everminds, the holistic approach to automotive plastics, which looks at helping to prevent worldwide plastic leakage, using advanced mechanical upcycling and bio-based feedstock to produce PP compounds. After Klaus, Chris Scarazzo from USA company Eastman spoke about investment in building a better circular economy for automotive waste plastics not only in the USA but in Europe.
He introduced the audience to their closed-loop recycling of automotive shredder residue involving partners including Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. He also highlighted how molecular recycling could solve the plastic waste problem. Finally, Thibaut Maury from the European Commission joint research centre focused on recycled plastic content targets in new cars. He highlighted the limited use of recycled plastics in cars, with only 19% of ELV plastics going to recycling. He then discussed the various policy options that could ensure a higher uptake, including soft or legal binding rules and/or mandatory targets.
The concluding session had a global theme looking at vehicle recycling initiatives worldwide. Janet Kes from ARN in the Netherlands looked at regulations in electric ELVs and their batteries and how the country had established a full battery recycling chain. Catherine Lenaerts from Belgium-based Fabelauto drew attention to natural disasters in car recycling. She discussed when a ‘disaster’ vehicle is considered an ELV and the issues around technical and economical total loss. For Brazil, Luiz Henrique Lopes Vilas spoke about a model truck recycling centre called JR Diesal. The final presentation was provided by Georg Mehlhart, Mehlhart Consulting, Germany, who drew attention to the existing EPR systems for ELVs and the options for future regulations. After outlining various countries’ approaches to this topic, he looked at the economic conditions and compliance costs. He said what needed to be discussed, including whether ATFs can cover the additional burden without compliance cost compensation and how to define it. Also, he asked if the illegal sector would increase if the ATFs had to cover these burdens alone. On the subject of illegal operators, the panel’s chairman drew a round of applause after stating that it has not been addressed and is still a problem affecting so many legal operators after more than 20 years of the ELV directive.
With closing remarks from Olivier François from Galloo, also chairman of the IARC steering committee, he asked, with the current economic climate, was it a good time to increase costs, especially concerning EPR? Those attending were able to draw their own conclusions after an intense two days focussing on the industry whilst looking forward to next year’s event.
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