Almost 100% of used lead-based vehicle batteries in the EU are collected and recycled, according to new study
A new study shows that virtually all lead-based automotive batteries that have come to the end of their useful life are collected and recycled in the EU in a closed loop system.
Almost 100% of used automotive batteries available for collection are recycled, making them one of the most recycled consumer products in the EU, according to consultancy IHS. The study was commissioned by EUROBAT, representing Europe’s automotive battery industry, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), the automobile manufacturers’ associations of Japan (JAMA) and South Korea (KAMA), and the International Lead Association (ILA).
The study explains how virtually all the component parts of a lead-based battery are recovered and reused at the end of life in a straightforward production process, with considerable benefits to the consumer and society.
The study The Availability of Automotive Lead-Based Batteries for Recycling in the EU, is part of a series of studies that have been submitted by the project group to the recent consultation launched by the EU Commission on whether to continue the current exemption for lead-based batteries within the EU End of Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive’s wider ban on lead in light-duty vehicles.
ILA Managing Director, Dr Andy Bush, said: “These figures show that the closed loop system for lead-based batteries is working extremely well in Europe and making a significant contribution to the circular economy.’’
The high recycling rate achieved means that the existing market for automotive lead-based batteries in the EU can be predominantly met with recycled lead in a closed loop system with low demand for primary lead reserves from mining.
The study explains that even without the need to recycle for resource conservation and environmental protection reasons, there is a significant economic incentive that acts as a driver to collect and recycle used automotive lead-based batteries. Recycling lead is relatively simple and cost effective and, in most of the current applications where lead is used, it is possible to recover it for further use over and over again – in lead batteries, or other products – without any loss in quality.
Although the report shows that 99% of used automotive lead batteries available for collection are recycled it highlights that the remaining 1% represents the statistical error of the approach and/or movement of stored batteries and batteries with longer lifetimes than estimated in this study rather than any batteries being landfilled or incinerated.
In related projects, this joint industry group has also evaluated battery technologies used for automotive applications, the resource availability of materials used in batteries and conducted a life cycle assessment (LCA) of batteries used in passenger cars.