December 9, 2023

Recycled Lead Market Analysis: Understanding Its Size, Share, and Growth 2030

Lead, once widely used in various products, has emerged as a crucial element in the pursuit of a low-carbon, circular economy. While the harmful effects of lead on health are well-known, its recyclability and sustainable applications have taken center stage in recent years.

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The Useful Natural Element

Before its well-documented toxicity became apparent in the 20th century, lead found its way into countless products. Today, the health risks, particularly for children, are undeniable—lead is teratogenic and carcinogenic. However, lead is still utilized in several industries, including Lead Acid Batteries, Rolled Extrusions, Pipes, Pigments, Cable Sheathing, Ammunition, Alloys, Weights for Scuba Diving, Architecture, Roofing, and Stained Glass Windows. Remarkably, approximately 85% of lead goes into the production of lead batteries, offering a unique opportunity for recovery and recycling.

Lead: the Pathway to a Low Carbon Future

Lead, primarily sourced from galena through a roasting process, stands out as a material perfectly suited for the circular economy. Its recyclability knows no bounds, with no loss of performance or quality. In fact, recycled lead is virtually indistinguishable from newly sourced metal, making it an ideal choice for sustainable manufacturing. In 2020, 12.0 million tonnes of refined lead were produced from primary and secondary sources, with more than 80% used in lead-acid batteries—a key source for lead recovery.

The Most Recycled Consumer Product

Lead-based batteries play a pivotal role in over a billion diesel and petrol vehicles worldwide, as well as in critical stationary applications like telecommunications backup power. Notably, lead batteries hold the title of “the world’s most recycled consumer product,” with high demand as a recycled material. The majority of recycled lead is reintroduced into the battery industry to create new batteries, underscoring the importance of systematic and responsible recycling.

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A Shift from Mining to Recycling

Recycling has reshaped the lead industry. Today, more lead is produced through recycling than mining, with over 2 billion tonnes of lead ores still untapped. According to The International Lead and Zinc Study Group, recycled raw materials accounted for 59.8 percent of global refined lead output in 2017. Moreover, the energy efficiency of using recycled lead in new products is commendable, requiring only 35 to 40 percent of the energy needed for primary lead production from ore.

Environmental Benefits of Lead Recycling

Lead recycling has significant environmental advantages, reducing the release of lead into the environment and conserving natural resources. However, it is important to note that the disposal of lead batteries poses both health and environmental threats if not handled correctly during smelting and recovery. Tight regulations now govern lead recycling plants and the disposal of batteries, preventing their improper disposal in landfills and household waste streams.

Global Commitment to Responsible Recycling

Various countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have established stringent regulations to ensure responsible lead battery recycling. These regulations demand the separation of batteries from household waste and mandate the collection and reuse of recyclable batteries at licensed facilities.

A Global Effort Towards Sustainability

China, India, and other nations have initiated laws requiring lead battery manufacturers to take back used batteries for recycling. While these measures aim to encourage recycling, financial incentives and penalties for noncompliance remain challenges to their effectiveness.

A Sustainable Future with Lead Recycling

In an era of growing environmental awareness, lead recycling emerges as a beacon of sustainability. With nearly 100 percent recycling rates in North America and Europe, and more than 50 percent of new lead products sourced from recycled lead, the lead industry is pioneering the way towards a low-carbon, circular future.

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Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2023-2030 – By Product, Technology, Grade, Application, End-user, Region: (North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Middle East and Africa)

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This press release first seen on Brilad