How can manufacturing reduce air pollution?
The Royal College of Physicians recently published its report, 'The Lifelong Effects of Air Pollution'. The report draws stark conclusions on air pollution’s effect on both the nation’s health and the cost overall to the UK economy.
The causes and impact of air pollution
The report concludes that air pollution is responsible for 40,000 deaths annually and has a direct or indirect link with conditions as varied as cancer, asthma, stroke, type 2 diabetes and dementia. Additionally, air pollution has a greater impact on the young and those with pre existing respiratory conditions.
It estimates the cost to the economy at £20 billion annually – much of it linked to the increasing strain it places on the NHS. The report identifies air pollution as comprising generally 3 elements: carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate fume. Whilst there is recognition that industrial pollution remains a contributory factor there is an implicit recognition that the Clean Air Act (1956) was a catalyst for improvement – a trend which has continued with the move away from coal fired power stations and the decline of our heavier industries; coal, steel and chemicals.
The report concludes that 2 main factors are to blame:
1 The tenfold rise in vehicular traffic since 1950 and
2 the increasing prevalence of diesel vehicles which now comprise 50 % of all traffic compared to just 14 % in the year 2000.
The shift from petrol to diesel vehicles was largely prompted by government financial inducements. Whilst it had - at least ostensibly - the laudable aim of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, it has caused a trade off in increased nitrogen dioxide and particulate fume emissions, which the report concludes, are responsible for an estimated 11,000 deaths annually.
Viewed from a European perspective, the UK has a poor track record. Its failure to meet any of the EU rules on nitrogen dioxide levels for the last five years prompted legal action culminating in the UK Supreme Court ordering the Government to create an action plan on how it would comply.
Despite this plan published in December 2015, most commentators do not expect our major UK cities including Leeds, Birmingham and London to meet EU air pollution rules until the year 2030. This calendar year the UK breached nitrogen dioxide maximum levels set for the whole year in early January. In 2015, the breach occurred after just two days. Any thoughts that this demonstrates even a slightly improved picture on air pollution must however be tempered by the knowledge that the air monitoring equipment in Oxford Street, London - described by some as 'the world's most polluted street' - was broken and awaiting repair.
What can manufacturing do?
The adverse consequences of air pollution in health and financial terms appear from this report to be very clear, prompt, and stark choices for the government.
Whilst it is recognised that the UK - in global terms - does much better in terms of its industrial greenhouse emissions than many Asian and Eastern European comparators, there is still a considerable way to go if the adverse ill health and financial costs are to be minimised or avoided.
UK manufacturing can play its role in fully embracing clean technologies which reduce emissions. Whether this is in the improved management of urban and agricultural waste incineration, the capture of methane gas released as a by-product, or more broadly, by promoting “green” initiatives, for example rail freight and passenger travel. Whilst the days of gaseous emissions from power stations and sulphurous fumes emitted from chimney stacks may be nearing an end, the focus now very firmly turns to the problems of transport and our infrastructure.
Jim Byard is a partner at national law firm Weightmans
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Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.