Tag Archive | "Recycling"

‘WASTE BATTERY MOUNTAIN’ REPORT IS DOOM-MONGERING

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‘WASTE BATTERY MOUNTAIN’ REPORT IS DOOM-MONGERING


A year ago we surveyed fifty different organisations who deal with end-of-life cars, and found that less than a third had made any preparations to deal with electric cars.

So it might seem reasonable for the University of Birmingham to suggest that we face ‘a potential electric vehicle battery mountain in the UK’. But I strongly disagree. The report focussed on the challenge of capturing and reusing metals like cobalt, nickel, manganese and lithium, but it is possible to capture these metals at specialist centres in Europe, and technology is developing very quickly on this front.

What’s missing isn’t the advanced technology to reprocess rare minerals, but a greater understanding at ground level – among dealers, dismantlers and scrap merchants – about what to do with a battery electric car.

READ: ELECTRIC VEHICLES VS THE AFTERMARKET

Concerns about costs, safety and additional resources compared to normal practice are holding people back. A high disposal cost for lithium batteries goes against the accepted norm that an end-of-life vehicle brings in a positive value for scrap dealers and owners, so many sites won’t accept them at this stage.

An additional factor is that electric cars have simply not reached the end of their lives in any significant volume. They are lasting much longer than predicted, and the SMMT has recorded that early mainstream electric cars from 18 years ago are still going strong.

But it’s only a matter of time before we see more end-of-life electric vehicles, as one in ten new cars sold are now electric.

Recent thought is that even for earlier cars, end-of-life volume is likely to occur within the next five years. We will still have batteries to deal with in the meantime – the result of malfunctions or crashes – but our feeling is that it will be a progressive build up as opposed to a sudden explosion in numbers as suggested by the Birmingham report. This outcome will mirror the growth in skills and awareness of recycling processes, handling and routes.

READ: DEALING WITH HAZARDOUS WASTE

At Cawleys we have been dealing with lithium batteries since 2012, and our decommissioning room for EV batteries has been operational for nearly two years. We have developed new skills in training, handling and shipping lithium batteries, and have established routes for end-of-life or second life use of electric batteries.

We can process a battery at the highest danger level by splitting it down into modules; it’s safer to work with 20 30V units than one 600V battery.

We do this in a commercially controlled environment, because there is a significant safety risk when it comes to handling lithium batteries, and there is already an undercurrent of private second use where individuals are experimenting with electric vehicles and power packs. This private repurposing process is likely further delaying increased volumes of end-of-life electric vehicles, by keeping them out of the hands of disposal experts.

The overall picture is positive, and it’s alarmist, unhelpful and untrue to say that we face a potential electric vehicle battery mountain in the UK. We should be confident that electric vehicles can be recycled well, and not let concerns about battery mountains spook the market on the consumer or trade side.

 

Alan Colledge is Senior Manager at waste management firm Cawleys Hazardous Services

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RECYCLING AT THE CORE OF THE OPERATION


Mark Heaps gives us a tour of Mirfield-based core dealer S.S Components

S.S ComponentsEver since he was a child, John Smith always had a passion for cars and dreamt of one day opening his own garage. Little did he know his dream would soon become a reality, setting up a leading auto-parts distributor to supply re-manufactures across the globe. “I started as a dismantler because I wanted a garage and always loved cars as a kid” said Smith. “My friend and business partner used to have a little area at the side of his house where we had five cars. It was unsightly and people complained to the council who chucked us off site”.

It wasn’t all bad news for Smith when his mother’s friend found a solution, renting a plot of land to him for a nominal sum to start up his dismantling business. “Back in 1970, we only had an income of £3 a week because I had a job delivering meat from a butcher shop and my friend delivered groceries. We offered £1 a week rent and the guy accepted it”. Once the land was acquired, Smith’s dismantling business started to grow by purchasing excess stock and selling the core on to remanufacturers.

The operation is very different today with the component supplier now spanning five acres  with a multi-million pound turnover, we were keen to pay them a visit. Mark Heaps, Operations Manager for S.S Components, is a known figure within the re-manufacturing industry, having worked for S.S for over a decade and before that at AMK.

SITE TOUR

Inside WarehouseThe campus was as different as you could imagine from a traditional breakers’ yard with stock organised, packaged and labelled correctly with the part numbers assigned to each customer order. The main warehouses were breathtaking in scale with seemingly never- ending aisles of components awaiting a second chance of life. “The biggest part of the company is the component side that we supply”, Heaps explained. “Our four core products are steering pumps, steering racks, rotating electrics and brake calipers. Brake calipers are in high demand with our current stock totalling 261,911 and selling around 21,000 each month”.

With a large campus to operate, company founder and Director John Smith bought in a dedicated band of 13 remanufacturing professionals to classify and prepare the units accordingly.  They also collaborate with an external independent team who scout the most desirable dismantlers and scrap yards around the world to buy and sell the material onto the company. The fleet was also impressive, comprising two tractor units, two trucks and three vans delivering in and around the Mirfield area.

BESPOKE SYSTEM

As the tour came to a close, Heaps took me through to the main office, where we were greeted by company founder John Smith. Smith was keen to take us through their bespoke system. Through many revisions it has proved to be a valuable necessity for the organisation, keeping track of all the stock, customer orders and deliveries. “The system is unique to us because we’ve designed all of it and made it work”, responded Smith. “The USP of our business is that when people ring up we’ve got it in stock”. The system provides customers with a sufficient amount of time to prepare the correct transportation for picking up stock. Heaps added: “We tend to hit 98 per cent and above each shipment, hitting deadlines, supply fulfilments and material that we supply”.

ENVIRONMENT

The supplier has also been recognised for its eco-friendly practices, winning the gold category for the Green Apple Environment Award in 2014. Heaps elaborated: “The Green Apple Award is a very proud achievement for us. We save tonnes of equipment from going to landfills. Our business is to buy and sell on, but in doing so we’ve helped the environment”.

Finally, Heaps has some thoughts about the supply chain. “We want to educate the guys in the motor factors who sell new rotating electrics without surcharges” he says. Heaps explains that in this instance good core is going to waste because there was no incentive for garages to do anything with the old item. “Instead of scrapping the units potentially they could sell the units to us for far better income than what they’re probably getting” he added. “We’re all becoming more and more aware of being green, efficient and recycling and that’s purely the industry we’re in and I can only see it going one way”.

This is true. With ever more legislation on business practices, being mindful of the environment has to remain ‘core’ to all we do.

Mark Heaps

VITAL STATS

S.S COMPONENTS

LOCATION
Mirfield

MANAGER
Mark Heaps

VANS 3 TRUCKS 2 TRACTORS 2

FASTEST MOVING LINES
Brake calipers, rotating electrics, steering pumps and steering racks

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