Strategy&: what does circularity mean for manufacturing?
More than just ‘recycling’, the circular economy is an economic model that spans supply chains and sectors, “in which there is no waste, and where the products of today are also the raw materials of tomorrow,” says .
Unlike the linear model where manufacturers produce products, “use them and discard them,” in a circular economy model products are not discarded they are fed back into the manufacturing process.
“You may immediately think of recycling, selective waste collection and numerous other examples from recent years. These tools were certainly milestones in the development of our attitude towards waste, but – due to the degradation of materials over time, and the limited opportunities for use – they do not, in themselves, represent a complete solution. What is needed is long-term thinking, to ensure that we already know, during the process of product design, what will become of the product after the user discards it,” adds .
So, what does a circular economy model mean for manufacturers?
- Minimising resource consumption
- Reaching new customer segments
- Reducing costs
- Increasing supply security
How can manufacturers contribute to the adoption of CE?
Strategy& explains that manufacturers can significantly contribute to ‘all four Rs’ when it comes to driving the adoption of a circular economy (CE).
- Reduce: Manufacturers can contribute to this pillar by reducing the amount of resources and raw materials they require to manufacture the same product but with the same quality.
- Refurbish/Reuse: By refurbishing and/or reusing products as a whole or partial modules for new products, manufacturers can reduce their use of new materials.
- Recycle: By recycling used products or parts of products (at end-of-life), manufacturers can turn them into raw materials to reduce the amount of waste produced, as well as creating additional valuable products.
- Recover: For the fourth pillar, manufacturers can contribute by recovering energy in the manufacturing process or from obsolete products when material reuse or recycling isn’t possible.
What are the first steps for manufacturers to adopt a CE model?
- Define a circular production strategy
- Analyse the sustainability and cost impact for implementing a CE model
- Ensure that your teams are on board and committed to implementing the new model
- ‘Kick-off’ and facilitate the sustainability project
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.