Veolia to open new EV battery recycling plant in UK

electric recycling truck

New West Midlands-based facility will discharge and dismantle batteries before chemical separation

French resource management company Veolia will open an electric vehicle battery recycling facility in the UK, which it says will be able to process 20% of the UK’s end-of-life supply.

The firm will build a new facility in Minworth in the West Midlands by 2024. It will discharge and dismantle batteries before a chemical separation recycling process is completed.

“This is an important first step on the UK’s journey to create an ethical and sustainable supply chain for batteries that will be increasingly necessary as we transition to a greener economy,” said Gavin Graveson, senior executive vice president of Veolia in Northern Europe.  

“We will not reach carbon neutrality without increasing our investment and development of new technologies and recycling opportunities. As the demand for electric vehicles increases, we will need this facility – and more like it in the UK – to ensure we don’t hit a resource crisis in the next decade.

The firm believes ‘urban mining’ – the process of recovering precious metals from recycled materials – is the next step to reducing the use of raw materials, and that the process will “unlock” the UK’s lithium ion battery reserves.

Urban mining is a process which involves retrieving valuable metals from discarded electronic equipment, often through chemical treatments. Valuable elements such as cobalt, nickel and lithium are hard to dispose of due to their toxicity.

“Urban mining is essential if we are to protect raw materials and will in turn create a new, high-skilled industry,” Graveson said. 

Veolia suggets some 90% of electric vehicle battery metals will ultimately be recycled through urban mining, and claims the combined efforts of urban mining and the use of recycled materials could significantly reduce water consumption and cut greenhouse gas emissions in battery production by as much as 50%. 

Battery production uses a significant amount of water and energy, with 500,000 gallons of water needed for each tonne of lithium mined. 

Veolia recently partnered with Renault and Solvay to build a prototype plant in France. It will explore different recycling processes to dismantle, extract and purify EV batteries, while improving existing mechanical and hydro mechanical recycling processes. 

Its new UK facility will be one of only a few dedicated EV battery recycling plants in the UK. Late last year, precious metal recovery specialist RSBruce opened a lithium ion battery recycling plant in Sheffield, while various firms including Cawleys, Ecolamp and Eco Recover have launched battery recycling and disposal programmes in recent months.