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End-to-end management

12 November 2019

When it comes to forklift batteries, you have to think of the whole-life journey. Here ECOBAT outlines its approach to recycling.

As a well-established player, distributing prominent brands such as TAB, Lucas and Sonnenschein across the industrial sector, the industrial division of ECOBAT Battery Technologies (ECOBAT Industrial), has built its reputation by providing its customers with a level of service that reaches beyond battery sales.

The company is able to supplement its core service with other support functions. Among these additional roles is highlighting the environmental responsibilities that affect the industry.

As can be seen from any consumer car magazine, vehicle manufacturers (VMs) are gearing up for a significant increase in their electric vehicle production and they therefore anticipate the sales growth of these vehicles to continue. This move is in tune with many governments who are increasing their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and toxicity to levels far beyond what is achievable with even the most advanced internal combustion engine powered vehicle. 

Although the use of lead-based batteries is expected to continue for the foreseeable feature, possibly in a dual battery format, even if the lack of infrastructure to charge electric vehicles acts as a temporary restraint, there is no doubt that the number of lithium-ion batteries fitted in these electric cars is set to increase and the product will play a greater role in powering the cars of the future. This growth is also being replicated in the machinery used within the materials handling, industrial cleaning and logistics sectors.

As is well known, lead-based batteries can be almost completely recycled due to the fact that when dismantled, the three main elements can be efficiently processed. The sulphuric acid in the battery’s electrolyte is recycled into gypsum, the battery cases into polypropylene and of course the lead, which is resmelted, to be supplied as lead strip, wire or shot and also as lead ingots to many of the world’s battery manufacturers.

However, as the volume of lithium-ion increases, so does the demand from the VMs, original equipment battery manufacturers (OEMs) and subsequently industry, for a competent service for the safe collection of used and damaged lithium-ion batteries.

Alongside ECOBAT Industrial within the ECOBAT group, is a logistics arm, which as well as being a leading collector of lead-acid batteries, is also pioneering the gathering of used and damaged lithium-ion batteries with operations in Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Norway, and the UK. As a result, ECOBAT is working with a number of leading OEMs to develop a suitable collection system.

The ‘Source to Safe’ model offers a competent and reliable service and as an endorsement of its capabilities, ECOBAT is one of the few companies in Germany that is legally permitted and certified to transport critically damaged lithium-ion batteries, under special conditions, having demonstrated that it has the physical equipment, processes and procedures, as well as the technical competence, to undertake this activity. 

In the UK, through its ECOBAT Logistics operation, ECOBAT is the market leader for waste battery collection and has invested significantly to ensure it is able to offer a fully compliant lithium-ion battery collection service, including customer site visits by technical support staff, the completion of specific transportation risk assessments and guidance to ensure the lithium-ion batteries are appropriately packed before transporting them to a modern sorting facility. 

When the lithium-ion batteries arrive at the group’s sorting area they are immediately placed into a holding zone (HZ), which is a concrete bunkered, sacrificial building with CCTV and thermal detection systems. Batteries will stay in the HZ until a dedicated lithium-ion team are able to sort and repack the material ready for onward shipping, to a facility where the materials will be processed, often through controlled incineration. 

Mixing lithium-ion batteries with other battery chemistries can easily lead to battery fires. It is therefore extremely important to isolate used or damaged lithium-ion batteries and contact a professional collection company for their safe disposal. 

Investment in managing the end of life process for evolving battery technologies is just one aspect which sets the ECOBAT group apart. It is not just the largest specialist battery supplier in Europe, but adds significant extra value to battery manufacturing and end of life battery recovery, which serves the entire industry.

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