[Graphics by Song Ji-yoon]
Reuse and recycling of used-up electric car batteries become available to private entities from this year in Korea, but confusion is inevitable due to lack of state safety and quality assessment standards despite the imminent outflow of used batteries from faster EV migration.
According to industry sources and the Ministry of Environment on Sunday, EV owners who purchased their cars with government subsidies since January 2021 can freely trade batteries in Korea.
The government eased the rule as part of efforts to boost the battery reuse and recycling market as it is difficult for local governments to manage the flood of used-up batteries pouring into the market.
Usually, private junkyards bought old cars and separate components and batteries to decide whether to reuse them or recycle them after performance tests.
The problem is that about 549 junkyards registered with local governments across the country are small-scale enterprises, raising concerns about their capabilities in isolating batteries from cars and storing them safely containing risky chemicals. Many of them even were not aware of the fact that the used-up battery disposal system has been revised from this year, according to a survey by Maeil Business Newspaper.
There is no government guideline on safety and performance tests of waste batteries for reuse and recycling.
Reusing and recycling may seem similar but are different. Reusing means the battery will be used as a battery for a different purpose, while recycling means the materials from the battery such as nickel, manganese, lithium, etc. will be retrieved and used to create new batteries.
Currently, there is no guideline separating the two.
The Korea Environment Corporation has applied its own standards and carried out safety inspections.
If used batteries are buried or disposed, toxic materials like cobalt and nickel could harm the environment. The National Assembly Research Service earlier pointed out the necessity of a close review on the risk of landfill and disposal of waste batteries.
Reusing and recycling of used batteries have emerged as new growth engines. According to the Ministry of Environment, waste batteries collected by local governments totaled 252 last year and 140 in the first half of this year and are estimated to surge to 107,000 in 2030.
China has already been active in drawing up various policy measures for waste batteries. Related pilot projects are being carried out in 17 cities including Beijing and Shanghai, and the government set up its own target for retrieval of key materials from used batteries.
The European Union also unveiled its plan to collect 70 percent of waste batteries by 2025 and recycle a certain amount of cobalt and lithium from batteries from January 2030.
“We need to set up detailed criteria for waste batteries and guidelines at each stage of recycling to state responsibility clearly,” said Kim Hee-young, a researcher at Institute for International Trade under the Korea International Trade Association.
By Lee Sae-ha and Lee Ha-yeon
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]