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Steady growth for lithium-ion, but lead-acid market ‘is not dead’

Portugal – ‘In the last 20 years, Portugal has witnessed great improvements in the waste management sector such as prioritising a smooth transition to a circular economy, as well as decarbonisation, with a special focus on e-mobility in public transport,’ according to the country’s secretary of state for environment Carlos Martins. Speaking at the International Congress for Battery Recycling in the Portuguese capital Lisbon, he added: ‘At a time of great ambition and great innovation, there are also great challenges.’

Around 30% of batteries are recycled in Portugal each year, representing some 25 000 tonnes; this is below the mandatory 45% target set by the EU for 2016. To improve on these recycling statistics, investment in sustainable battery solutions is vital, Martins told delegates last Wednesday. He also called for increasing synergy between proper management of e-scrap, end-of-life vehicles and batteries.

‘Electrification is sky-rocketing in developing countries – and it’s simple, there is no electrification without batteries,’ said keynote speaker Nuno Lacasta, president of the Portuguese Environment Agency.

‘Landfill rates are still high, at 40%. All those sites will need to be mined. The sooner the better. Frankly, we are not prepared as regulators – yet. But we will need to be prepared.’

Booming market

Worldwide, the battery market was worth US$ 69 billion in 2016. ‘We’ve seen an average growth of 8% per year since 2006,’ noted Christophe Pillot, director of Avicenne Energy. ‘This uptrend is hardly surprising considering 2 billion mobile phones and 165 million laptops were sold last year.’

Pillot also reported that the global lithium-ion battery market was worth US$ 31 billion in 2016. The market for plug-in cars surged 16% in 2015-16 alone. ‘All the lead-acid applications could become li-ion applications,’ he commented. ‘However, lead-acid is not dead – it was a very big battery market in 2016 and it will still be a significant market in 2025.’

High-demand lifestyles

‘So, how many Earths do you think we need if we all lived like the people of Australia?’ the audience in Lisbon was asked by Professor Vera Susanne Rotter of the Technical University of Berlin. ‘It’s gone up to 5.2 already. We need five planets to sustain the lifestyle of both the USA and South Korea, and about 3.5 planets to sustain Russia’s demand for resources.’

Rotter proposed: ‘Maybe we can consider the last series of tropical storms not just a threat, but an opportunity to see clearly that something has to change.’

Stay tuned! The full battery conference report will be featured in Issue 7 of Recycling International.

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