Electrification will add to waste, for example from the use of batteries in transport.

Nearly all electrical waste can be recycled and doing so is a great opportunity to provide Europe with valuable metals, new jobs and more sustainable value chains for electric vehicles.

Nearly all electrical waste (e-waste) can be recycled often to the benefit of both the environment and the economy. In Europe, e-waste is strictly regulated to ensure safe treatment and enhance resource efficiency and the Commission sees further potential to increase the repairability and recyclability of electronic devices in the years to come.

In addition to contributing to waste reduction, recycling of e-waste can also ensure that valuable materials are retrieved and reused. Some estimates set the value of the secondary raw materials from e-waste at €55 billion globally, including materials such as gold, silver, copper, platinum and palladium.

A case in point is the batteries used in electric vehicles. For example, the lithium-ion batteries used in most of the EV market today contain valuable materials such as nickel, aluminium, cobalt and lithium. The European Commission notes that, by 2025, recycling car batteries could provide more of the rare and valuable metal cobalt than Europe’s combined domestic production. Building up this recycling supply chain in Europe would complement efforts to establish a world-leading industry for batteries and electric vehicles in Europe, as well as offering the potential for job generation.

References:

European Commission, “Waste Electronic Equipment - Environment - European Commission,” 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/weee/index_en.htm.

European Commission, “Circular Economy Action Plan,” #EUGreenDeal, no. March (2020): 4, https://doi.org/10.2775/855540.

C.P. Balde et al., The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, United Nations University, 2017, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.proci.2014.05.148.

Eleanor Drabik and Vasileos Rizos, Prospects for Electric Vehicle Batteries in a Circular Economy, Circular Impacts, 2018.

European Commission, “Report from the Commission on on the Implementation of the Strategic Action Plan on Batteries: Building a Strategic Battery Value Chain in Europe,” European Commission, 2019, 17.

N Hill et al., Circular Economy Perspectives for the Management of Batteries Used in Electric Vehicles Final Project Report, 2019, https://doi.org/10.2760/537140.