Not only 5% of lithium-ion battery recycling accounts for about half of scrapped batteries. China contributes the most.

July 24, 2019

Not only 5% of lithium-ion battery recycling accounts for about half of scrapped batteries. China contributes the most.


It is generally said that the recovery rate of lithium-ion batteries is only 5%, but a survey of the secondary life and recovery treatment of lithium-ion batteries shows that this statement is obviously underestimated. The new study found that nearly 100,000 tons of used batteries were recycled last year, accounting for about half of the scrapped batteries.

A circular energy storage report commissioned by the Swedish Energy Agency found that the statistics on lithium battery recycling in the past are misleading. In fact, China and South Korea have become the recycling centers of most waste batteries in the world. The study pointed out that one of the reasons that lithium-ion battery recycling has not been fully reported is that too many researchers use second-hand data and rarely check their references because of the lack of official statistics, unreliable or outdated transmission. The data is possible. As a result, the agency collected information from about 50 global lithium-ion battery recycling companies and found that last year's recycling amounted to 97,000 tons, including 67,000 tons in China and 18,000 tons in South Korea.

High price

The report also found that almost all recycling industries, including China, have overcapacity problems, mainly due to the lack of effective battery collection solutions.

More than 50 companies worldwide recycle lithium-ion batteries at scales ranging from small laboratory plants to large plants. Chinese companies account for the majority, and South Korea, the European Union, Japan, Canada, and the United States also have a significant number of companies, but China and South Korea have become the preferred destinations for discarded batteries, because companies in these two countries pay far more than European or American companies. .

According to the Circular Energy Storage Report, “There are several recycling companies that use efficient processes to recycle batteries for new battery materials, which is in full compliance with the requirements of the circular economy.” “However, especially in Europe, what is missing is recycling. battery."

Discard the battery, the price is high. According to relevant sources, import and export bans, too expensive or complicated transportation methods and neglect of discarded batteries are factors that affect the “high price” of batteries. The last point can also explain why the actual amount of battery recycling is much more than we believe, but if you can recycle these batteries, you are willing to pay more.


According to relevant sources, “most Chinese and Korean recycling companies have the ability to recover lithium through hydrometallurgical processes, but this does not mean that all companies are recycling lithium, depending on their main end product and current price. But Volkswagen's interest in lithium is increasing, and as more and more lithium iron phosphate batteries enter the market, several companies have begun to focus on lithium recycling."

In reviewing the existing recycling research results, the consulting company found that more than 300 studies have separated the materials in used batteries and regenerated the cathode materials or their precursors. More than 75% of research considers hydrometallurgical processes, with 70% of research conducted by scientists in China or South Korea. These studies focus on lithium, lithium cobalt, lithium nickel cobalt manganate, lithium iron phosphate, and nickel cobalt aluminum. battery.

Circular Economy

The recycling economy of lithium-ion batteries not only ensures responsibility for the disposal of hazardous waste, but also reduces battery manufacturers' reliance on traditional raw material supply chains, which often face the risk of price spikes.

For battery recyclers using smelting processes such as Belgian recyclers, it is quite easy to recover more than 90% of the cobalt, nickel and copper from the battery, but the problem of lithium is more difficult. In Asia, hydrometallurgical processes are the preferred method of recovery, separating copper and performing efficient processing with aluminum. It is understood that the recovery rate of some other materials is higher, at least 98%.