September 27, 2023: Some of the ambitious recycling targets set out in the new EU Battery Regulation may have little basis with current technological abilities to recover metals from battery scrap with the timeline proposed fanciful.
This was the implication of an after-presentation expert discussion at the Asian Battery Conference in Siem Reap on September 6.
Steve Binks (pictured), director at the International Lead Association, gave a paper entitled “The EU Battery Regulation — Setting the New Standard for Sustainable Battery Value Chains” which outlined the scope and purpose of the new Battery Regulation which was voted into effect at the end of July this year.
“Although the Regulation has much to be admired — it’s the first global policy instrument to address all aspects of a battery’s lifecycle and is designed to secure the sustainability and competitiveness of EU battery value chains — clearly there are going to be huge challenges in its implementation,” said one delegate.
“In particular some of the timelines outlined by the EU are fanciful and targets over-ambitious.”
The regulation sets a target for lithium recovery from waste lithium-ion batteries of 50% by the end of 2027 and 80% by the end of 2031. It also provides for mandatory minimum levels of recycled content for industrial, SLI batteries and EV batteries. These are initially set at 16% for cobalt, 85% for lead, 6% for lithium and 6% for nickel. These are raised to cobalt 26%, lead 85%, lithium 12% and nickel 15%.
When delegates pointed out to Steve Binks that no expert could predict that — with the exception of lead — such recycled content targets were possible, he said that the Regulation included provisions for Commission to revise them in 2028 when more information about the market availability of battery grade recycled material would be known.
He admitted, however, that the recycled content target levels proposed in the Battery Regulation had been set by political will rather than expert analysis.
“The consultants who advised the Commission wanted to set more realistic, achievable targets than these, but their views were overruled during the political process,” he said.
The new Battery Regulation replaces the current batteries directive of 2006 and is the first holistic piece of legislation under the EU’s so-called “Green Deal” that covers the entire life cycle of a product: from raw material sourcing, design, use and end-of life.