E-waste recycling in China

City of Shenzhen, China

SDG 7: Affordable and clean energySDG 8: Decent work and economic growthSDG 9: Industry innovation and infrastructure
A market leader in the area of e-waste material recycling in China, the Shenzhen based company GEM Co is internationally renowned for their pioneering battery recycling. The company was a 2018 finalist in the prestigious Circulars Awards and has taken the leading position in the high-tech recycling market in China.

China is still by far the world’s largest consumer of raw materials. In 2015 its factories and industries accounted for about 50 percent of global steel, copper, nickel and aluminium demand. The demand for batteries in China is also growing exponentially. The Chinese government has set the target to increase the number of electric vehicles by five million by 2020, a target that looks likely to reach. This development puts a lot of pressure on the use of materials as well as an increasing need to shift to a more circular approach where battery components are reused in order to protect against supply and cost fluctuations. GEM Co Ltd has adopted a circular approach for almost two decades.

Good practices and solutions

GEM recycle materials from a number of industrial sectors including electronics, automobiles, batteries and wastewater. However, the company is most renowned for its recycling of battery, an important strategic sector for China due to the growth of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Recycling more than 10 percent of the total number of discarded batteries, or about 300,000 tonnes of battery waste per year, GEM has the highest capacity of recycling used batteries in China. Their technology enables the recycling of scrapped lithium batteries from electric vehicles, extracting the nickel, cobalt and other important resources, transforming them into materials that can be reused to produce new batteries.

Outcomes & Opportunities

GEM has combined the recycling industry with green technology. It has invested almost 300 USD million to build eight treatment centres around China, with an annual capacity to recycle 15 percent of China’s total used household appliances and 20 percent of China’s total used circuit boards. It has applied for 1,200 core patents in the field of waste recycling and material recovery and promoted international co-operation in the field of circular economy, for example co-operating with the University of Oxford.

Related SDG targets


Photo: © David Hofmann/Unsplash

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Project: Circular Baltic 2030