Nickel is a non-ferrous metal primarily used in stainless steel manufacturing, but also offers utility in up-and-coming technologies like in the batteries of electric vehicles. Silver, white and hard in physical appearance, it offers a myriad of physical and chemical properties that are essential in many tech applications. With a steady and continuous demand for nickel in manufacturing processes, it is essential that we think congruently about the sustainability of this metal long-term.
The increasing consumption of nickel has led to a depletion in the availability of nickel resources.
Currently, there are two primary ways to extract nickel: mining and nickel recycling. Much like the detrimental effects of cobalt mining in the Congo discussed in our previous blog, The Demand for Cobalt Recycling in Electric Cars, nickel mining also negatively impact human rights and the surrounding environment. It is for this reason that we should turn to nickel recycling as a sustainable resource to meeting the growing demand for this non-ferrous metal.
The Global Nickel Recycling Industry
Nickel is one of the world’s most recycled materials. About 68% of nickel is reclaimed from consumer products that are recycled. Common recycled sources of nickel are primarily from stainless steel and old batteries. As a highly recyclable metal, nickel and nickel containing alloys can be processed down to a re-usable nickel material. Unfortunately, around 17% of nickel from consumer products is improperly recycled or end up in a landfill.
This is why it is essential to promote awareness about the importance of recycling nickel to reduce the chances of improperly recycled nickel in the future.
Promoting a Circular Economy
With increasing global awareness surrounding the importance of protecting the environment, international organizations, stakeholders, and policymakers are underlining the importance of recycling nickel in the promotion of maintain circular economies. Circular economies are regenerative economic systems in which resources are used for as long as possible, and where the maximum value is extracted during its useful life. Circular economies are sustainable by design, and reduce total negative environmental impact.
Recycling nickel effectively meets the criteria for sustaining a circular economy due to its ability to be reused over and over again, instead of traditional linear material economies that are defined by the make, use, and dispose model.