With high quality and substantial quantity of ore available deep level or ultra-deep, recycling cobalt from used smart phones could meet high demand from manufacturers of electric cars in the coming decade, the chief executive, Belgium-based materials technology and recycling company, Umicore, Marc Grynberg, predicts.
In an interview with the Financial Times, published on 12 February 2018, Grynberg said the only viable way to secure a long-term supply of battery metals for millions of electric cars would be for manufacturers to resort to recovering cobalt from used phones.
“There is an amazing mine of cobalt that is totally untapped. Around 10 percent of global production goes into smartphones, and if it is not extracted from dead batteries, that cobalt is lost forever,” Grynberg explained.
Referring to data from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, Grynberg stated, in order to meet increasing demand for electric car batteries, cobalt supply would need to reach 180,000 tonnes by 2026, up from 48,000 tonnes in 2016. He argued that, subsequently, recycling would start to make up a growing portion of supply.
In conclusion, Grynberg suggested that the recycling initiative had to start sooner than later.
“Mechanisms should be in place to encourage people to return their disused smartphones,” he said, lamenting that, currently, only around 5 to 10 percent of smartphones are collected for reuse and recycling, .