According to an article in gtm, Hans Eric Melin, founder of UK based Circular Energy Storage said that approximately 67,000 tonnes of Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries were recycled in China in 2018, making it 69 percent of all the stock available for recycling worldwide.
Melin said: “Another 18,000 tonnes were recycled in South Korea, mostly for the Chinese market.”
“These figures are approximate because recyclers often hoard batteries to take advantage of spikes in materials pricing.”
Up to 100,000 tons of lithium-ion batteries could be recycled worldwide this year and China aims to take an increasing share to build up materials supplies for its growing battery business.
“This appetite means China’s grip on lithium-ion recycling seems likely to grow. American and European recycling companies have good processes but might struggle to find the volumes of used batteries needed for profitable operations”. Melin said.
According to gtm, ‘This year Chinese recyclers could see production slow down after the government announced plans for a 50 percent cut on EV purchase subsidies. But any scaling back is likely to be a blip rather than a trend’.
Milan Thakore, a research analyst at Wood Mackenzie said: “Lithium-ion battery recycling surged last year in China, particularly from portable electronics, due to high cobalt prices,” he added: “The country is also scaling up EV battery recycling rapidly.”
“China sold more EVs than the rest of the world combined last year,’ said Thakore. “Therefore, it will need to lead the way in recycling, too,” he said. “On top of this, many of the vehicle electric batteries are lower quality and have already reached the end of their life.”
Melin added that ‘EV battery recycling was in position to make up a growing portion of the feedstock for Chinese companies, but this will take longer than people might think.’
‘By 2025, Circular Energy Storage estimates that batteries from electric cars and buses will still only account for around 40 percent of total recycling volumes. Portable electronics will account for another 40 percent, with the balance coming from other recycling categories.’