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Lead enjoys one of the highest recycling rates of all materials in common use today. This is a result of its fundamental properties, good design and the ways in which it is used, which make lead based products easily identifiable and economic to collect and recycle. As a result, over half of the lead produced and used each year throughout the world has been used before in other products. What is more, because lead is a naturally occurring element, the quality of the recycled lead is identical to that of primary metal from mining.
The use of lead has evolved over the years, with a significant growth in recyclable uses. Today about 80% of lead is used in lead acid batteries, all of which are recoverable and recyclable. Some countries boast a 100% recycling rate – and most others share the possibility of 100% recyclability.
A further 6% of lead is used in the form of lead sheet by the building industry. Together with a number of other smaller volume metallic applications such as radiation shielding, cable sheathing and various specialised applications, such as earthquake dampers, this means that about 90% of all lead is used in readily recyclable products – and almost all of it is recycled – conserving precious ore reserves for future generations.
Lead recycling brings advantages to industry and society in areas such as energy consumption, reduced carbon emissions, resource conservation, employment and costs. For instance, the recycling of used lead products requires only about one third of the energy needed to produce lead from its ores, resulting in major energy savings and fewer carbon emissions. It’s therefore not surprising that recycling is a very attractive option for everyone, and a valuable contribution to sustainability.