Fortum started recycling black matter from accumulators in Finland, it gets 95% of the materials

Recycling of lithium batteries it is no longer something that does not exist. But for now, it’s happening on a small scale. There are already several recycling centers in Europe that deal with the first step of recycling, i.e. disassembling batteries (the result is, for example, recycled aluminum) and extracting the so-called black matter, which is a mixture of lithium, manganese, cobalt, nickel, or other materials that form the basis of the chemical part of the battery. But this is not the end, because it is necessary to further extract individual materials from this mixture in order to use them to produce new accumulators. So far, this is happening (at least as far as Europe is concerned) only to a limited extent in smaller pilot operations, but for example in the case of the American Apple it is already a standard process and the share of recycled materials in new phone batteries and other mobile devices is still increasing. Company Fortum however, it built the largest European recycling center in the Finnish city of Harjavalta for the 2nd phase of battery recycling, i.e. the processing of black matter.

Fortum recycling center in Finland

It cooperates, for example, with the recently opened Fortum center in Kirchardt, Germany, where the 1st phase of the process takes place, the disassembly of accumulators and the extraction of black matter, which is then processed in Finland. However, this German center has a capacity of only 3,000 tons of batteries per year, which corresponds to more than thousands of electric cars. As for the Finnish center, it can recover about 95% of the materials from the black matter with the help of the hydrometallurgical process. If the first phase is included, about 80% of the battery can be recycled. Let us remind you that the European Union intends to require certain shares of recycled materials such as cobalt, nickel or lithium from 2026.

The paradoxical problem is that we are not dealing with an inability to recycle effectively, so much as there is not much to recycle. The production of new electric cars is two orders of magnitude higher than the number of discarded ones that were produced some 10-15 years ago. For quite a long time, we have to count on the fact that recycling will be just a tiny spit in the ocean. The production at that time is roughly less than 2% of what we produce today. In 2012, 130,000 electric cars were sold, in 2022 roughly over 7 million, if we do not count plug-in hybrids. If we consider that the electric cars of that time had much smaller batteries than those of today, recycling will probably not cover even 1% of the need. This number can be a more significant factor only when both numbers of electric cars (newly produced and discarded) are equalized, i.e. only after we reach full electric mobility (say 90%+ of the vehicle fleet). If Europe wants to ban the sale of internal combustion cars in 2035, various countries could achieve full electromobility somewhere around 2050-2055 (if we do not count the European exceptions that want to introduce this ban even earlier).

Source: Svět hardware by

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