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Johan van Peperzeel: ‘We will come out of this stronger’

The coronavirus crisis is affecting the lives and businesses of many in the global recycling scene. ‘In these challenging times, solid long term relationships are what really matters,’ says Johan van Peperzeel, owner of battery recycling firm Van Peperzeel in the Netherlands.

How are you, Johan?

‘What can I say? It’s tough but I’m happy that my employees are all healthy and nobody is ill.’

How has corona affected your business and operations?

‘Until the end of March we could still supply recycling plants in Europe but today recyclers in France and Belgium are closed so we can no longer ship material to them. We can still ship lead acid batteries to the various recyclers in Europe but lithium and li-ion battery recyclers are causing headaches as many of them have stopped accepting material. That is a big problem as we didn’t have sufficient recycling capacity for these batteries in Europe even before the pandemic outbreak.

As a result, our stocks are growing and we have asked the authorities to allow us to store more on a temporary basis. On top of coronavirus-related issues, we have been confronted with a major fire in our facility.’

So you’ve been hit double hard.

‘The good news is that, within seven working days of the fire, we were back in full production with the help of a lot of people. Another benefit was that sorted lithium and li-ion fractions from our contract partners are stored in compartments with fire detection and fire suppressions systems using sprays. The competent authorities and the fire department approved everything. We have our office in a temporary cabin outside the facility.’

What have you done in response to coronavirus crisis?

‘Let’s face it, without recycling plants being open there comes a point when a battery collector might as well stop collecting the batteries. Up until now, the authorities have promised us to help with the required extra storage capacity and we hope it will be enough. Obviously, if all recyclers close there will be more trouble and more job losses. People in administration and sales can work from home but this is not the case for production and logistics.’

What do you expect to be the long-term effect on your business?

‘I believe that our business and industry will recover. I don’t think it will come back completely as before. There are companies that won’t survive and people will stay unemployed for longer periods. It will take some time, maybe years. But I am optimistic and positive that as a company we will come out of this stronger.’

What are your main lessons learned from the crisis so far?

‘”Stay safe and healthy” was a phrase we didn’t use before. But it’s so important. For your family and friends, of course, but also for colleagues and employees. Another thing is the importance of choosing the right partners in business, for better and worse. In these challenging times, solid long-term relationships are what really matters.’  

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