ICM: Can you tell me about Veolia’s hazardous waste activities and battery recycling in particular?
Jean-François Nogrette: Veolia has been involved in hazardous waste management for 50 years and it’s now one of our core and fastest growing activities with important expansions in Europe, Asia and North America. It’s the reason why battery recycling is not a brand-new topic for us. We started to work on the recycling of alkaline batteries 30 years ago, to then leverage our knowledge to follow the market evolution, and offer solutions to larger battery packs, coming from electric vehicles.
Battery recycling is essential for three main reasons:
- First, the battery is one of the major contributors to the environmental footprint of an electric vehicle. Recycling is a key benefit to drastically reducing this footprint and realizing the full benefits of decarbonizing electric mobility.
- In the long term, resource supply may become an issue in some territories, depending on geopolitical fluctuations. Developing recycling programs can reduce our dependence by increasing self-sufficiency in strategic metals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt.
- Finally, batteries can be a threat to the environment and the people who handle them, as they contain chemicals and are highly flammable. Proper management of their recycling is therefore mandatory to avoid accidents and mitigate any form of risk.
What are you bringing to this market? Why should customers choose Veolia?
Jean-François Nogrette: At Veolia we are working closely with our partners to close the loop in their supply chain, to comply with future regulations and to develop a secure and local procurement of raw materials.
Here are some examples of services to help our customers solve some of their key challenges:
The security of a proven process includes high robustness and tolerance to variability, but also operator safety.
A “glocal” network, whatever your location in the world, while we are committed to the quality of our local services and the deployment of the associated workforce, also pools activities to further reduce transportation and processing costs.
A tailored partnership as Veolia is committed to creating lasting and fruitful relationships with its partners and customers. Our partnerships, whether in the form of strategic alliances, joint ventures, or otherwise, are built on trust and transparency to deliver real results.
And finally, ongoing R & D projects, carried out in-house or with partners like Solvay, ensure the continuous improvement of recycling processes and technologies.
What is the potential you see for this market for Veolia? Where do you see growth in particular?
Jean-François Nogrette: Veolia currently has 3 operational sites in China and Europe with the capacity to process 30,000 tonnes of batteries, corresponding to approximately 100,000 EV batteries. That is only the beginning, and the group has the ambition to become a leader in this market, with five other sites planned in different regions for the next few years.
Our first-of-a-kind industrial scale hydrometallurgical plant will start operating next year, allowing us to expand our possibilities and offer a wide range of services, from battery disassembly to high grade metallic salt production.
Gigafactories will probably be the first to need important recycling capacities due to the large amount of scraps incoming from battery production processes. Strong relationship with those companies is therefore important to scale up the activity before the arrival of larger volumes from end-of-life electric vehicles.
What are the challenges you need to meet?
Jean-François Nogrette: The biggest challenges for the recycling industry will be to meet the strong regulatory requirements. We are dedicatedly working to ensure that our processes comply with regulatory evolution and that our recycled products will be perfectly suitable for new battery production.
Positive message for the future?
Jean-François Nogrette: The challenge is to keep pace with manufacturers’ innovations. The materials used to design the batteries for tomorrow’s electric vehicles will have to be increasingly efficient in terms of quality and vehicle range. Manufacturers must constantly renew their products, and we must continuously reinvent our know-how to enhance the end-of-life value of these batteries. We are ready to take up this challenge to make electric mobility ever more sustainable.