Latest update: 12 November, 2021
Home > Batteries Available for Recycling > Available for recycling on the global market
Batteries available for Recycling on the Global Market
Latest update: 6 Jan, 2022
Recycling means that batteries are being procesed in order to recover all or parts of the materials inside for use in new batteries or for use in other products. "Available" means that the batteries either are recycled or stored with th intention to recycle them at a faciility equipped an permited either do so or to export them to a recycler abroad.
The CES Recycling data is based on observations, industry and academic resarch of both actual recycling volumes and estimates based on the reuse, collction and EOL data.
Data in Excel
Placed on the market worldwide by application, GWh
Placed on the market worldwide by application, tonnes
Placed on the market worldwide by region, GWh
Placed on the market worldwide by region, tonnes
Placed on the market worldwide by chemistry, GWh
Placed on the market worldwide by chemistry, tonnes
Portable batteries still largest segment for recyclers, often available through reuse and refurbishment companies
Personal mobility to become one of the largest segments with the next 2 years in several markets
LCO and LFP will be as important as NMC and require recycling solutions
LIBs available for recycling in China
Available for recycling means that batteries have been collected by companies that either fully process batteries, pre-process batteries or export batteries for recycling and that the batteries are not intend to be reused or remanufactured.
This means that batteries that are available for recycling in for instance Europe will not necessarily be recycled in Europe but might still be exported for recycling somewhere else. In previous analysis we have treated “available for recycling” and “to recycling” equally. By separating the two we want to highlight the dynamic of the trade in waste batteries .
Currently almost 75% of all batteries that reach recycling worldwide are portable batteries such as mobile phone, laptop or power tool batteries. The majority of these batteries are neither collected nor processed through companies or organisations with obligation to report the volumes but are usually traded for highest value by e-waste, reverse logistics and trading companies. Normally this means that batteries are sent to different recyclers in Southeast Asia and South Korea, many times with China as final destination. Although the batteries normally are meant to be recycled a significant amount of these batteries will be assessed for reuse and can in the end be resold as part of power banks, smaller packs or as relabelled 18650 or mobile phone cells. Thus there is still another leakage between what’s “available for recycling” and what is finally recycled.
The second largest segment for recyclers today is personal mobility although the volumes are only available in a few regions around the world. These batteries, used in electric scooters, motorcycles, bicycles and kick scooters are cycled much heavier than batteries in for instance electric cars. Thus their lifetime is shorter and the vehicles they power will outlive their batteries instead of the other way around. The largest volumes will come from scooters in China which increasingly use lithium-ion batteries but volumes from e-bikes in Europe and rental scooters in the US are also significant.
Another growing segment are the heavy electric vehicles, primarily buses in China and it will be take as long as until 2029 for electric cars to directly become a larger segment. There are two reasons for this. First of all batteries used in light duty EVs will stay longer in their host applications than any other battery but packs used for energy storage systems. This means that the rapid growth of electric vehicles will be seen in the end-of-life stream first after ten years. Secondly the batteries will in many cases be reused in second life applications which will create an even longer delay. However, as can be seen in the chart above, indirectly EV batteries from both light and heavy vehicles will have become the largest segment for recycling when they have been decommissioned from second life applications which are estimated to have an average lifetime of 5 years. As the batteries at this point not always are in the shape of EV batteries these are classified separately in the numbers.
The availability of batteries to recycling is not evenly distributed over the world. Instead a very large volume is concentrated to China. The main reason for this is of course the huge domestic market in the world's most populated country. China became already in 2013 the largest market for smartphones and from a booming industry for electronics an early advantage emerged to take the lead in the lithium-ion battery industry which also made China to the largest market for both light and heavy duty electric vehicles. However that is not the only reason for China's dominance in recycling. China is not only the largest maker of smartphones, tablets and other digital devices but is also the leader in the refurbishment and remanufacturing of these products. Therefore millions of mobile phones, tablets and computers are shipped to China for refurbishment from all over the world. The devices will then be assessed in companies in China and batteries which are not fit for purpose will be sold to recyclers in China. This means that these devices will never reach end of life in for instance Europe or the US and the batteries will never b collected on their original market. This is one of the main reasons why so few lithium-ion batteries are collected in Europe and North America.
The largest amount of batteries in China will eventually come from electric vehicles. Compared to other markets the dominant chemistry have for a long time been LFP both in light duty EVs (until 2016) and in heavy duty vehicle such as trucks and buses. In fact in China the two dominant battery chemistries available for recycling from waste batteries will be LCO and LFP. While LCO have been recycled for a long time there are still fairly few recyclers which specialize in LFP which have much lower material value.
How batteries are going from "available for recycling" to "recycled" ?
When batteries reach a treatment facility different handling process will take place depending of the type of batteries.
Collected portable batteries can either be mixed with other portable batteries such as alkaline, nickel cadmium and primary lithium batteries, or they might come sorted from for instance companies which collect the same type of batteries from intercoms, tools or computers. In both cases the batteries needs to be classified and usually sorted. The sorting processes differ with the operators and depends both on which in feed they normally have and what the requirements of their own process or the process of the receivers downstream. Usually lithium-ion batteries are separated into a cobalt rich fraction consisting of batteries from mobile phones, tablets and laptops which predominately have LCO or NCM cathodes, and non-cobalt batteries, normally from power tools, toys and leisure applications.
In some markets batteries with cells that can be reused, such as 18650 cells in laptop batteries, will also be separated as they can be sold for higher values. In our numbers an estimate of this volume is taken account for among the second life batteries and are not included in the AoR numbers.
Some recyclers in Asia take a further strep and strip the cells from their packs in order to create a more clean recycling strap and thus obtain higher value from the material.
Industrial batteries, including batteries from electric cars, are assembled in battery packs which also can be organised in different modules with several cell inside. A typical pack also consist of electronic components (the battery management system), a cooling system and different electrical and protective components made of steel, aluminium and plastic. Just like the portable batteries an industrial battery normally needs to classified according to its sub chemistry but there is no real sorting involved. Instead this might come after the packs have been disassembled.
The degree of disassembly varies depending on operator. A recycler with a pyro metallurgic process might disassemble the pack down to modules and will then be able to feed these into the recycling process. A recycler with a hydrometallurgical process might also disassemble to battery to module level for subsequent shredding while they in some cases they might go down to cell level in order to obtain a cleaner material stream for the next step.
There are several collectors that won’t do any disassembly of the batteries at all but will only prepare the battery packs for transportation for recycling domestically or overseas. There are also several companies that do so-called pre-processing which usually means that the batteries are shredded and the separated materials are then sorted for further treatment.
That batteries are available for recycling on a particular market doesn’t mean it will be recycled there. Batteries are shipped to the recyclers that pay most or charge least for the material and except for China most countries accept waste batteries. However it has become increasingly difficult to ship batteries due to safety concerns something that gives larger collectors with permits and contracts in place an important advantage.