The recycling industry should be preparing to deal with further demand for recycling batteries used in mobile phones, digital cameras and electric vehicles, a global conference has been told.
Delegates at the International Congress for Battery Recycling in Montreux, Switzerland, were told that the annual gigawatt hours (GWh) of power supplied by lithium-ion batteries had grown more than 20-fold between 2000 and 2014.
The event heard that the trend was underscored by sales last year of 1.8 billion mobile devices, 230 million tablet computers and 170 million notebook devices.
Christophe Pillot, chief executive at French market research institute Avicenne Energy, said demand for mobile phones was forecast to rise by an average of 6% a year for the next decade, with consequent implications for lithium battery demand.
“Whereas in the year 2000, this type of battery provided 2GWh of energy, the figure had already risen to 46GWh by 2014,” he said. “Nevertheless, lead-acid batteries still account for the majority of market share by far and still comprised 90% last year.”
Hartmut Stahl from the Institute of Applied Ecology predicted that, by 2050, more than 43 million lithium-ion powered vehicles would be on the world’s roads. “For the recycling industry, this means getting adjusted to a new mixture of materials,” he said.
Delegates examined ways that existing battery recycling processes could be optimised, but were cautioned that safe and efficient collection mechanisms for waste lithium-ion were a key issue.
Dieter Offenthaler, chief executive of Swiss battery recycling company Batrec Industrie, said financial measures to support recycling were equally important: “Technically speaking, a great deal is possible, but recycling processes need to be profitable as well. The crucial question, therefore, is how much [we] are prepared to pay for recycling.”