A recent Green Impact study, ordered by Mobility Minister George Gilkinet (Ecolo), confirms the potential of recycling and reusing batteries. The study results were presented on Tuesday at Umicore’s site in Hoboken (Antwerp).
Batteries contain rare materials like lithium, nickel, and black lead, so they are a source of valuable resources. Besides, only a few countries have them. “We have to deal with them sparingly,” explained Minister Gilkinet.
‘Mines of the future’
Green Impact is an engagement program by mostly university students that helps people to understand sustainability in the workplace. It encourages staff and students to work in teams and take concrete actions around socio–economic and environmental issues in their office, lab, and home (working) environment.
According to Gilkinet, Belgium has the necessary know-how to become a world leader in recycling and reusing batteries for electric vehicles. “Factories like Umicore are actually the mines of the future. They contribute to the environment and also provide jobs.”
Today, one of the significant challenges is the administrative burden of obtaining the necessary permits and transporting used batteries between countries and regions. “It is my ambition to get all the competent ministers around the table on the subject,” Gilkinet said.
Forerunner in Europe
Umicore already has a relatively small-scale recycling site in Hoboken, making the company a forerunner in Europe. Still, it is planning to construct a new, large-scale factory with a capacity of 150 000 tons of batteries somewhere in Europe by 2026, representing a 500 million euros investment. It will probably make Umicore the largest recycling company by then.
In the meantime, the components of batteries evolve, so companies like Umicore, therefore, have to respond to this.
Wouter Ghyoot, Vice President Umicore: “Making recycling sustainable is also a challenge. Umicore aims to make all its activities CO2 neutral by 2035, including battery recycling.”