European companies are planning major expansions to the continent’s battery recycling capacity.
Umicore has announced that it wants to build the world’s largest battery recycling facility. The $525 million plant, to be built somewhere in Europe, would be capable of processing 150,000 metric tons (t) per year of battery materials. The Belgian firm says the plant will be 15 times the size of its current facilities when it opens in 2026.
“We are recycling today. It’s a matter of scaling up,” Kurt Vandeputte, Umicore’s senior vice president of government affairs, said during a June 22 presentation for investors. “We are going to do this first in Europe, and we’ll roll this out further in North America.”
Vandeputte said Umicore expects future European regulations will require batteries to use more recycled materials, creating a market for recyclers.
In addition, BASF announced a plan to build a battery recycling plant in Schwarzheide, Germany. The factory will be able to process 15,000 t per year of electric vehicle batteries and scrap left over from manufacturing. And in May, a joint venture connected to the Swedish battery maker Northvolt started operating a recycling plant in Norway capable of processing 12,000 t of used battery packs.
The BASF plant, slated to start in 2024, will dismantle and shred batteries to produce black mass, a substance rich in key battery metals. The company is also hoping to build a commercial-scale hydrometallurgical refinery somewhere in Europe by the middle of the decade. That plant would process black mass, and the resulting materials would make their way back to BASF’s battery cathode materials factory in Schwarzheide, which is scheduled to start production by the end of the year.
The consulting firm Circular Energy Storage forecasts that about 350,000 t per year of recyclable material will be available from lithium ion batteries in Europe by 2030. But if companies follow through on their announced plans, they will build capacity to recycle more than twice that amount, the firm projects, meaning recyclers will have to compete to get their hands on battery materials.