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Report: Rubbish heaps could unlock home-grown cobalt supply for EVs

Cobalt - a critical component in the manufacture of electric vehicles - can be recovered from discarded UK products to create a home-grown supply chain, think tank concludes.

The UK could develop a home-grown supply of cobalt to secure its leadership in low-carbon technologies, if it starts to manage its waste better. That is the conclusion of a new report released by the think tank Green Alliance today, which concludes extracting cobalt from discarded UK products could provide a reliable new domestic supply for UK industries. Cobalt is a key metal used in the manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries. Currently the UK has to import 100 per cent of its cobalt from overseas to make electric cars and other low-carbon goods. But increasing demand and volatile costs threaten the international supply chain and could hold back low-carbon growth in the UK, Green Alliance warns. Indeed, the price of cobalt has tripled in the last two years, and a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance assessment named a supply crunch of cobalt as "one of the biggest threats" to rising electric vehicle (EV) adoption.

Supply risks could be avoided if the UK makes better use of the cobalt it already has in existing products, Green Alliance contends. Today's report concludes half of UK cobalt demand, and a third of demand for rare earth elements, could be met in the UK simply by making better use of goods when they reach end-of-life. Recycled cobalt can be collected from consumer electronics batteries such as mobile phones and laptops, but current recycling rates only reach about 25 to 50 per cent.

According to Green Alliance, government should move to set minimum standards for reused and recycled content in new goods, and set stringent government procurement standards to boost the UK market for reclaimed materials. A secure supply chain based on a materials recovery system could even help encourage carmakers to set up operations in the UK, Libby Peake, senior policy adviser on resources at Green Alliance, said.

The report comes just a day after trade body techUK published a separate study arguing new policies and tax breaks were required to encourage re-use, re-manufacturing, and recycling across the ICT sector.

Source: Business Green 


Päivitetty/Updated: 14.06.2018

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