Advancing responsible sourcing
in mineral value chains
Lithium-ion battery (LIB) disposal is in part regulated under various existing and upcoming regulations (e.g. the Basel Convention, the EU’s updated Battery Directive, etc.). Proper battery disposal is generally motivated by initiatives to protect people and the environment and to keep resources within countries by supporting a circular economy. Consequently, battery recycling is the preferred method to manage end-of-life (EoL) batteries. Apart from the fact that recycling is the only viable waste treatment option for LIBs due to their intrinsic danger, the strategic importance of LIB recycling taking place in the EU can be summarized in the following four points:
Further information on battery cell production is provided under the Mobility Sector, including international and European recycling companies, challenges in the recycling phase, etc. Detailed information on lithium-ion battery recycling, including technological status, is provided in the State of Play Report on the Mobility Sector.
As the solar panel technology is a comparably young technology with a life span of 20-30 years, the return of used solar panels for the recycling process is quite small. For this reason, the number of treatment facilities is limited and the recycling per say is not economically attractive yet. With available technologies, a little over 90% of solar panels can be recycled. This is mainly done in existing glass and aluminium recycling plants. However, effective treatment of the entire solar panel is key to extract critical metals used, such as silver, tellurium, or indium.
Further information on solar panel recycling is provided under the Renewable Energy Sector, including recycling companies, challenges in the recycling phase, etc.
Detailed information on Solar Panel recycling is provided in the State of Play Report on the Renewable Energy Sector.
Wind turbines generally have a high recyclability of approximately 80% to 90%. The major components – such as steel from the tower, concrete from the foundation, etc. can be reused. However, so far this has not been possible for wind turbine blades, due to the complex structure of composite materials. Over the next couple of years 15,000 wind turbine blades will reach their end-of-life in Europe. This large volume poses great challenges for collection and waste disposal or processing. New technologies need to be developed to sustainably treat and reuse the materials to make the wind sector sustainable from cradle to grave. Currently there are three main options of handling the end-of-life blade material: (i) disposal, including landfill or incineration without heat recovery, (ii) energy recovery or recycling, i.e. incineration with energy recovery, thermal, chemical, or mechanical recycling, and (iii) repurposing, e.g. co-processing in a cement kiln. Apart from the issues with treatment and recycling itself, the dismantling of wind turbines also poses health and safety risks for the workers.
Further information on wind turbine recycling is provided under the Renewable Energy Sector, including recycling companies, challenges in the recycling phase, etc. Detailed information on wind blade recycling is provided in the State of Play Report on the Renewable Energy Sector.