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Recycled lithium volumes still ‘relatively low’

Global – The total volume of recycled lithium could reach 5800 tonnes – or 30 000 tonnes lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) – in 2025, according to a new analysis from Creation Inn. Long service lives, positive prospects for second use and poor collection of portable batteries are said to be the main reasons behind this ‘€˜relatively low’€™ figure.

By 2025, recycled lithium will represent 9% of the world’s total lithium battery supply.

More than 66% of lithium-ion batteries, or 191 000 tonnes, are expected to be recycled in China by that year, thus fuelling the country’s fast-growing battery material industry.

The percentage will be even larger for cobalt-containing batteries, with 76% of the cobalt in 2025 expected to be recycled in China without taking production scrap or other sources into account.

At least 60% of batteries from electric vehicles are believed to serve second-use solutions before being sent for recycling.

When volumes eventually increase in Europe and North America, the Chinese recycling industry will have ‘a strong competitive advantage’ through proven technology and available capacity, according to Creation Inn.

‘The limited recycling of lithium-ion batteries in Europe and North America has very little to do with lack of technology but is rather a consequence of a policy framework that doesn’t acknowledge the reuse value in the batteries which currently drives them overseas,’ argues report author Hans Eric Melin.

‘From a circular point of view, it actually works fairly well but it doesn’t provide much support to governments’ ambitions to secure access to critical raw material in the EU, US and Canada,’ he adds.

The biggest market drivers for lithium are said to be: intelligent battery management systems; flexible and scalable battery pack design; smart take-back systems; and applications based on second-life batteries.

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