EU needs to recycle more: Report
To achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, the EU will require "35 times more lithium" than it currently uses.
Europe must act quickly to secure supplies of critical metals needed for a green energy transition, and recycling is its best bet, according to a report released on Monday.
The EU's 27 member states want to be "carbon neutral" by 2050, which means reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the point where the amount produced is balanced out by the amount removed from the atmosphere.
The bloc also wishes to reduce its reliance on Russian oil, coal, and gas.
To that end, it seeks not only to use less energy but also to increase the amount of energy produced domestically from renewable resources.
This includes manufacturing electric vehicles and batteries, expanding wind, solar, and hydrogen technologies, and developing infrastructure to distribute clean energy.
However, expanding clean technologies will necessitate significant inputs of raw metals, and much of this will almost certainly have to be imported in the early stages, according to a study conducted by Belgium's KU Leuven University.
To achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, the EU will require "35 times more lithium" than it currently uses, as well as "seven to 26 times the amount of increasingly scarce rare earth metals," according to the Metals for Clean Energy report.
The energy transition will also necessitate significantly increased annual supplies of aluminum, copper, silicon, nickel, and cobalt.
According to the report, commissioned by the European association of metal producers and recyclers, Eurometaux, Europe could be self-sufficient for 40 to 75% of its clean energy metal needs by 2050 if it invests heavily now in recycling infrastructure and cuts red tape.
For the time being, the EU is still reliant on imports for many of these metals, and the study warns that "there is growing concerned about the security of supply."
Today, Europe relies on Russia for aluminum, nickel, and copper.
The study concludes that "recycling is Europe's best chance to improve its long-term self-sufficiency," noting that metals recycling emits far less CO2 than primary metals production.
By 2050, locally recycled metals could produce "three-quarters of Europe's battery cathodes, all of its permanent magnet plans, and significant volumes of aluminum and copper."