Batteries are essential to our modern lifestyle. Hybrid and Electric vehicles, E-bikes, laptop computers, smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, etc. make our lives convenient because of instant power supplied by rechargeable batteries. As we continue to enhance our lives with these devices, battery disposal is becoming an environmental challenge.
Since 2006, Umicore is providing recycling services for Lithium-Ion (Li-ion), Lithium Polymer and Nickel Metal Hydride batteries (NiMH) from all possible applications across the globe. From these batteries, valuable metals are recovered so that they can be converted into active cathode materials for the production of new rechargeable batteries. From battery to battery, preserving the environment and the earth’s natural resources.
Our recycling process
An internationally recognized process
By combining a unique pyro-metallurgical treatment and a state-of-the-art hydro-metallurgical process, Umicore is able to recycle all types and all sizes of Li-ion and NiMH batteries in the most sustainable way.
The Umicore pyro-metallurgical phase converts the batteries into 3 fractions:
- An alloy, containing the valuable metals Cobalt, Nickel and Copper designed for the downstream hydro-metallurgical process.
- A slag fraction which can be used in the construction industry or further processed for metal recovery. The slag from Li-ion batteries can be integrated in standard Li recovery flowsheets trough a cooperation with external partners. The slag from NiMH batteries can be processed to a Rare Earth Elements concentrate that is then further refined through a cooperation with Solvay.
- Clean air, released from the stack after it has been treated by the UHT’s unique gas cleaning process.
The pyro-metallurgical step deploys Umicore’s unique UHT technology. The UHT technology is pushing the boundaries for recycling and sets a new standard in Best Available Technology for metallurgical recycling processes. It is designed to safely treat large volumes of different types of complex metal based waste streams. It differentiates itself from other recycling technologies, by
- A higher metal recovery compared to existing processes and the output of directly marketable products.
- Direct feeding of the batteries, which avoids the need for any potentially hazardous pre-treatment
- The gas cleaning system, which guarantees that all organic compounds are fully decomposed and that no harmful dioxins or volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) are produced. Fluorine is safely captured in the flue dust.
- Reducing the consumption of energy and CO2 emissions to a minimum by using the energy present inside the battery components (electrolyte, plastics and metals).
- Generating close to zero waste
By recovering strategic elements like Cobalt and Lithium from end-of-life batteries, Umicore is leading the way towards a circular economy, providing solutions to the growing demand for sustainably sourced materials.
With an installed capacity of 7.000 metric tons per year, the UHT furnace in Hoboken is one of the largest dedicated recycling installations for Li-ion and NiMH batteries in the world.
7.000 mt =
± 250.000.000 mobile phone batteries
± 2.000.000 E-bike batteries
± 35.000 EV batteries
In the subsequent hydro-metallurgical process, the alloy is further refined so the metals can be converted into active cathode materials for the production of new rechargeable batteries.
Since long, Umicore is a leading supplier of key materials for rechargeable batteries used in portable electronics and hybrid & electric cars.
The correct disposal of dangerous waste material like end-of-life Li-ion and NiMH batteries can be complex and at times worrisome. That is why Umicore works hard to provide comprehensive peace of mind solutions to OEM’s and battery collectors around the globe, through:
1. Strong focus on safety
Safe for the environment
The unique Umicore UHT furnace is equipped with a custom designed gas treatment that sets new standards in best available technology for metallurgic that guarantees:
- Destruction of all hazardous battery compounds
- No Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) formation
- Isolation of hazardous elements like fluorine to the flue dust
Safe for our workers
The unique Umicore UHT furnace is intrinsically safe (safe by design) because it avoids the need for potentially hazardous pre-treatment like shredding. Because all the actual processing is contained inside the furnace, workers are not exposed to the risks inherent to such operations.
2. International network of drop-off points and dismantling service for large batteries
Representatives around the world
Our team has offices around the globe with specific knowledge of the local market and legislation to better serve our customers
To further facilitate the transport of batteries from E-mobility, Umicore has installed a global network of drop-off points which can be used by customers to dispose of their end-of-life batteries.
These drop off points are either Umicore owned or run by external partners. In these drop off points, the batteries are collected, safely stored and prepared for transport to our Dismantling line in Hanau.
Large battery packs like these from electric vehicles first require a step where packs are dismantled until module or cell level, before they are treated in the UHT furnace. Umicore runs a dedicated dismantling line in Hanau, Germany and offers this service as part of its total recycling solution.
3. Guarantee of destruction and recycling
Certificate of destruction and recycling
Umicore guarantees its customers total compliance with applicable legislation, certainty of destruction and full confidentiality. Upon request Umicore provides a certificate for all the volumes it has received.
This certificate states that the batteries are recycled against a recycling efficiency exceeding the minimum efficiency stipulated in the EU Battery Directive.
4. Professional support on international transport of waste
Umicore employs in-house specialists that provide professional advice on international transport of waste and dangerous goods. To further facilitate the transport of batteries from E-mobility, Umicore has installed a global network of drop-off points which can be used by customers to dispose of their end-of-life batteries.
5. Extended legal compliance
The EU Battery Directive 2006/66/EC requires a minimum recycling efficiency for processes that recycle batteries. Umicore’s recycling processes achieve Recycling efficiencies well above the minimum. More information on the definition and calculation of the Recycling efficiency can be found here.
Transport of Waste / Dangerous Goods
Umicore employs in-house specialists that provide professional advice on whether your type of battery is considered as hazardous waste yes or no. The same team of specialist will also be able to tell you if your batteries are considered dangerous for transport yes or no. Specific to your request, Umicore will provide instructions with regards to packaging, labelling and stowing so the materials can be shipped in full compliance with international guidelines for the transport of waste and dangerous goods.
In addition, the Hoboken facility is a pre-authorized or pre-consented facility which means that the administrative burden for waste shipments into Hoboken is reduced to a minimum.
Certificates / ISO
See our Certificates and Awards page
6. Solid financials
Long term vision and commitment
Umicore was one of the first companies to enter the market of Li-ion and NiMH battery recycling and focuses on partnerships with industry players that look for long term solutions in a growing market. Solid financials help us to assure our partners that we will have the capacity and technology for their future EOL batteries when they need it.
Umicore offers innovative and price competitive recycling solutions in line with the needs of the market.
7. Sustainable closed loop solutions
From the batteries we recycle, valuable metals are recovered at the highest possible yields so that they can be converted into active cathode materials for the production of new rechargeable batteries. From battery to battery, preserving the environment and the earth’s natural resources. More details on our recycling process,can be found here.
8. Commitment to innovate
Through its active cathode material activity, Umicore is at the heart of the growing and rapidly evolving Li-ion battery market. With the knowledge of volumes and chemistries to come, Umicore continuously adapts and invests in new innovative ways to better serve the changing needs of the market. This commitment to innovate is not limited on new batteries and growing volumes, but equally focuses at continuously improving the safety and sustainability of our processes.