Battery recyclers express optimism about market development
Attendees at the International Congress for Battery Recycling 2019.

Battery recyclers express optimism about market development

ICBR 2019 attendees weigh in on current and future volume trends and challenges faced by the industry.

September 19, 2019

Growing global demand for batteries is also reflected in business prospects for the battery recyclers. Their expectations have been highlighted in a recent survey of participants at the International Congress for Battery Recycling (ICBR) 2019, Sept. 18-19 in Lyon, France. ICBR is an international platform presenting the latest developments and discussing the challenges faced by the battery recycling industry.

According to the survey, 58 percent of respondents expect general economic conditions for the battery recycling industry to improve over the next two years. One in four expects business to remain at a stable level. Eighteen percent of respondents expect business to slow down.

The results in assessing current volume trends points to future growth:

  • 68 percent say volumes are currently developing positively
  • 78 percent predict that volumes will grow over the next two years
  • 22 percent expect volumes to develop at a stable pace

These results are based on a survey conducted by the ICBR Steering Committee. The results are summarized in the "Industry Barometer ICBR 2019,” which was published for the third time at this year's conference. The results provide a meaningful insight into current opinions prevailing in the sector, according to a news release from ICBR.

As part of the survey, participants were asked to assess the current business in terms of volume and profitability:

  • 50 percent rate current business as good
  • 34 percent see no change compared to the previous year
  • 16 percent are not satisfied with the current business situation

When asked about the factors influencing business performance, respondents referred to the growing market for battery applications. The quantity of scrap batteries handled by sorting, dismantling or recycling facilities “is growing and is likely to continue to grow.”

At the same time, the “downward pressure on profitability also appears to be increasing.” Factors highlighted in the survey include fluctuations in the price of active materials recovered from batteries, based on prices quoted on the London Metal Exchange (LME). An additional challenge is seen as the financing of battery returns.

Some sector representatives expect the composition of batteries to continue to change, influencing the cost of collecting, transporting and recycling materials. Another issue for the sector is the different legal frameworks that apply from country to country. This aspect is not only relevant in terms of battery recycling, but also to the harmonization of definitions and objectives between the European Union's Battery Directive, the Waste Framework Directive and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive. It is also seen as a challenge to raise awareness that the collection of consumer batteries, as small industrial batteries, produces the desired results.

“The battery recycling industry is highly motivated to entering a circular economy policy as recommended by European authorities,” says Jean-Pol Wiaux, chairman of ICBR's steering committee. “Such a motivation is supported by the significant market development of mobile electrical power sources. The impact of recycling on the supply of active materials for batteries may become significant when such a policy is efficiently implemented and when the economic context remains favorable.”

Wiaux adds, “The success of a transition from a linear approach to a circular economy requires improvements at the level of coherence and harmonization within the European legislative and regulatory frameworks impacting the battery recycling industry. The market development of electrical energy sources is a global issue as well as the battery recycling business. Experiences gained in European Union could be adapted in many other countries where the implementation of a national legislative framework would create a level playing field between economic actors for the efficient collection and recycling of batteries.”