Visit of the Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze at Accurec
Svenja Schulze, federal ministry of environment, has visited Accurec`s newly opened Li-Ion battery recycling plant in Krefeld. She was highly interested in the status of research and development in battery recycling technologies. Specifically the recycling of Li-Ion batteries is a concern, as re-circulation of critical materials like Cobalt, Lithium and Graphite can help industry to be more independent from future demand off important materials for electromobility. Reiner Weyhe, managing director of Accurec, has explained in details the status and problems in Li-Ion battery transportation and recycling technologies. He also underlined the remarkable lack of collected rechargeable batteries. „But this is already on track. We necessarily need to improve battery collection by higher mandatory minimum collection rates“, explained Svenja Schulze.
Accurec Recycling GmbH, a medium-sized company with locations in Mülheim and Krefeld, is a nationwide battery collector and international recycling company with a turnover of about € 12 million per year and 60 employees. Since 1995, it has been involved in the development and construction of plants for the recovery of raw materials from accumulators. At its Mülheim / Ruhr facility, the company operates own-developed vacuum furnaces to remove cadmium from nickel-cadmium batteries. The spent batteries contain large quantities of valuable industrial metals such as nickel and must be recycled in accordance with legal requirements. They are thermally treated in vacuum induction furnaces, the cadmium is safely distilled off and the industrial metals are returned to the economic cycle. The more modern nickel-metal hydride batteries are also recycled with the help of this innovate and zero emission technology.
For the last five years, the company has increasingly invested in modern recycling technologies to challenge the recovery of spent Li-Ion batteries. At the Krefeld site, Accurec has already invested € 10 million. Another 5 millions will be invested in coming 2 years. Around 50,000 to of Li-Ion batteries are already sold annually in household products in Europe. Conservative estimations predict sales of 150,000 to of Li-Ion vehicle cells in the EU in 2025, with sales figures continuing to grow dynamically. Li-Ion batteries also face enormous challenges in the field of recycling. On the one hand, they contain a high proportion of critical raw materials such as cobalt, graphite and lithium; they also contain valuable industrial metals such as copper and nickel. On the other hand, their collection and recycling is associated with enormous problems due to the high energy capacity, reactive alkali metals and highly flammable electrolytes. The EcoBatRec process, funded in a BMU research project and developed in cooperation with the Technical University of Aachen, already offers the possibility of recycling 2,000 to of Li-Ion batteries annually. Li-Ion batteries are classified, sorted, dismantled and subsequently thermally treated in a rotary kiln to dispose of organic components. Batteries afterwards are inert after, and can now be handled more easily. Copper, aluminum, steel and Ni-Co concentrate are recovered in a sophisticated mechanical process. The overall process is characterized by high safety and a high recycling efficiency. The focus of the next development and investment stage is on the improvement of recovery range. Critical raw materials such as lithium and graphite are intended to be recycled at low cost. Thus, a highest share of explosive increased demand for raw materials for future electric mobility could be covered from recycling.