A basic overview

Today, we are becoming more and more concerned about the environment and the importance of taking actions to save the planet.

One of the multitude solutions is using renewable and electric energy which provides an ecological yet practical response to the decarbonization of the environment. The key to using these electric rechargeable technologies is lithium ion batteries. With an increase of all our sustainable products like EV (Electric Vehicles) for example, we are more than ever in need of millions of batteries.

Graph 1 - Is electric energy really sustainable or just trendy?

Every year, around 800.000 tons of automotive batteries, 190.000 tons of industrial batteries, and 160.000 tons of portable batteries enter the European Union. And these figures are growing year after year.

The used Lithium-Ion battery market is expected to reach 7 million tonnes per year by 2040, according to Argonne National Laboratory. Yet less than 5% of lithium batteries are currently recycled. Meaning that the remaining 95% are either dangerously stockpiled or become landfill waste. These batteries contain toxic heavy metals; which can easily make their way into our water systems and through the food chain.

What is a Lithium Ion battery?

A lithium-ion battery is a family of rechargeable battery types in which lithium ions move from the negative electrode to the positive electrode during discharge and back when charging. It powers the lives of millions of people each day in different areas like mobility, construction, healthcare and much more.

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In order to create a lithium ion battery, specific substances are required like cobalt, nickel, manganese and other metals. These are extracted from the mining of our natural resources. Moreover, the processing of lithium requires a high quantity of water; to extract a ton of lithium, 1,900 tons of water are needed, which is consumed by evaporation. Lithium ion batteries are classified as a hazardous product. When they are at their end of life, there is a high risk of fire, emission of toxic gases and explosion, which demands proper handling. A battery ending in a landfill will result in the contamination of soil and groundwater, threatening ecosystems and human health. 

Thus, with the amount of manufactured batteries increasing, the scarcity of most of the resources required to produce batteries, and the need for conscious focus on batteries second life (collection and repairing) is extremely important and until now completely underestimated.

Which solution to face the pollution?

The most efficient solution in order to make this process more sustainable is to create a circular economy for batteries.

Consequently, there are European Directives regulating under the EPR (European Producer Responsibility – Directive 2008/98/CE 19 November 2008.) In this Directive, the company putting a battery on the national market for the first time is called a producer. It can also be a manufacturer, importer, or distributor. The aim of these standards and regulations is to ensure safety. This directive makes it mandatory for a producer to take care of their used batteries. Therefore, they have to inform the end users about the dangers of the product and the necessity to dispose of them properly. They need to propose a collection scheme to collect and recycle used batteries.

Furthermore, by law, a company introducing batteries on the market needs a financial program to make sure the necessary funds are available to handle the waste. (Even for batteries produced 10 years earlier). This responsibility is subject to control and mandatory declarations. Each government gathers all the reports and figures on the POM (Put on market), POff (Put off market) and Recycled products so they can prove that they are complying with the European Directives. 

EU - Is electric energy really sustainable or just trendy?

Interestingly, this directive is not well known by producers, meaning they are sometimes not aware of their responsibility and if they do, don’t always know how to comply with this directive. NOWOS is born out of this need for service, helping producers take care of the reverse logistics and compliance with the European Directives and achieve the circular economy).

What are the benefits of repairing, refurbishing and repurposing?

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Repairing, refurbishing and repurposing means that batteries can have a longer life / second life. So instead of putting a battery to recycling and buying a new one, we can use the same battery much longer. According to our experience, 75% of batteries not working are repairable. Meaning that all these discarded batteries could actually work and be reused. Therefore, it is of course a benefit for the environment but also economically for a company. Instead of buying new batteries and recycling it, which represents important costs, the reparation, refurbishment is the alternative solution to generate turnover.  The repair process means less mining of virgin materials and less associated environmental harm. These scarce materials represent more than half the cost of a new battery.  (https://cen.acs.org/materials/energy-storage/time-serious-recycling-lithium/97/i28)

Moreover, more repaired batteries mean less abusives practices. Most of the world’s production of cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is tied to armed conflict, illegal mining, human rights abuses, child labour, and harmful environmental practices. 

NOWOS believes in a circular economy, benefiting people, planet and profit.

Is repairing and refurbishing that easy?

Repairing and refurbishing a lithium-ion battery is different according to each type of batteries. Therefore a deep intake process is necessary to evaluate the repairability and what is needed to be able to do it.  First, the batteries need to be collected by the producers. The awareness of disposing of used batteries is low, plus, collection schemes are not well developed. As a result, often batteries are thrown in the garbage or regular household recycling bins which should not be the case as it is highly dangerous. Then, after the collection by the producers, batteries are transported to our repair factory. As the batteries are classified as class 9 by the dangerous good regulation – “Miscellaneous dangerous goods”, it requires strict rules. 

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Specific packaging needs to be used after the batteries are classified according to 4 states; new, end of life, damaged/defective, and dangerous/unstable. Conforming to ADR (European Agreement of 30 September 1957 concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road), each member state should be packed differently and there are strict rules to comply with. The transport can only be done by an expert and ADR certified company.

Finally, the batteries arrive to the factory to be repaired and are shipped back to the producers to be reused.

How can NOWOS help your organization? 

NOWOS is the expert of Lithium-Ion batteries and propose services of repair, refurbish and repurpose. The aim is to have a positive effect on our planet, people and profit by developing the circular economy for batteries and giving them a longer life. Nowos also provides advice, support and services to producers and distributors of batteries for them to comply with European battery legislation.

The main purpose is to give a longer life to batteries. With the belief that, effective repairing and refurbishing of used lithium batteries is a more sustainable solution than creating new one to help our planet to regenerate.

NOWOS also help and organize the logistics to the repair factory and all the legal tasks on behalf of the customers. By unburdening producers and distributors, NOWOS contributes to the development of the circular economy and the preservation of our natural resources. The company is dedicated to making a positive impact on the world.

What is the point to try to be sustainable using electric products, if, at the end, batteries end up in the landfills polluting the world even more?


Let’s make a truly positive environmental and ethical impact with our batteries!
This is an increasingly important concern in which we should take actions to normalize the second life of Lithium Ion batteries by repairing it to result in a better world.

 

If you need help with your batteries or have any questions, feel free to contact me by email at helene@nowos.com.

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