Lead industry’s contribution to a sustainable future is key theme at ILA’s record-breaking conference

Delegates to the 18th International Lead Conference (Pb2013), in Prague, have heard how lead and its products are making a significant contribution to a sustainable modern society. 

Over the two days (20-21 June) of the conference The Future of Lead: Meeting the Challenges and Seizing the Opportunities run by the International Lead Association (ILA), a record number of delegates heard speakers highlight the importance of the lead industry economically and socially and the continuous improvement made by companies to reduce worker exposures and minimise environmental emissions. 

Opening the first session, Geert Krekel, Managing Director of ILA member Campine, said: “The lead industry’s current image is outdated and undeserved. It already has a good story to tell in terms of its positive contribution to society – it just needs to start telling it more proactively and confidently.  

“It is an industry that is focused on the responsible management of a material that delivers huge benefits in its existing applications and has significant potential to contribute further to a sustainable society.”

Some of the key messages delegates heard were:

  • More than 95% of lead-acid batteries are now recycled
  • There is an increasing global demand for energy storage solutions with lead-based batteries at the forefront
  • 75% of new vehicles in Europe are equipped with Start-Stop systems using advanced lead-based batteries
  • Advanced lead-acid and UltraBatteries are reducing CO2 emissions and play an important role in renewable energy storage for the wind and solar energy industries
  • Architectural lead sheet is ‘the new eco building material’
  • Regulatory challenges are significant, but companies continue to find innovative solutions to improve health, safety and environmental performance. 

Presentations by analysts Helen Matthews (Wood MacKenzie,) and Huw Roberts (CHR Metals) highlighted significant and sustained growth in the global lead industry over many years, driven largely by increasing demands for energy storage solutions – a trend which is forecast to continue into the future.   

Michel Baumgartner, of EUROBAT, explained how in Europe the lead-acid battery continued to be the dominant chemistry.  However he highlighted that fuel economy and CO2 reduction targets will play a big role in future technologies adopted by car manufacturers.  

Today more than 75% of new vehicles placed onto the European market are equipped with Start-Stop systems using advanced lead-based batteries. “We can therefore not speak anymore of new markets and technologies, but of a very advanced mass market already,” added Mr Baumgartner.

Dr David Wilson, President of the Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium (ALABC), spoke of the important work of the ALABC in supporting the development of these advanced batteries and of the impressive performance expected from the next generation of batteries. 

It was a message emphasised by Kevin Smith, of the East Penn Manufacturing Company, who demonstrated how the benefits of advanced lead-acid and UltraBatteries extend beyond CO2 emissions saving in vehicles and played an important role in renewable energy storage for the wind and solar power industries.  

Delegates also heard from several speakers on a range of practical actions being taken by the lead industry to continuously improve the management of lead in respect of health and the environment. This ranged from a presentation on the independent environment and health research sponsored by the lead industry through the International Lead Zinc Research Organization (presented by Dr Craig Boreiko of ILZRO) to innovative waste management technology solutions reported on by Mark Stevenson of Ecobat Technologies Asia.  

Community engagement was recognised to be an important activity for the lead industry and Richard Deane, of Teck, explained how the Canadian lead producer had partnered with the local community in Trail, British Columbia, to lower the blood lead levels of children and tackle wider social health issues as well. 

Lead’s environmental credentials were a recurring theme throughout the event, and ILA’s Dr Alistair Davidson, demonstrated the major contribution made by recycling, reporting that more than 95% of lead-acid batteries were now recycled, helping to make lead the most recycled major commodity with a recycling rate of 75% for the lead industry as a whole.

The environmental benefits of another product, architectural lead sheet, were also highlighted by Doug Weston,  CEO of the UK Lead Sheet Association, who concluded that lead should be considered as the ‘new eco building material’ based upon its low carbon footprint and lower lifecycle costs compared to other products.

Against this positive backdrop the lead industry also recognised the increasing regulatory pressures it faced globally. Dr Steve Binks, ILA Regulatory Affairs Director, said that the industry would be able to meet these challenges so long as it continued its existing efforts to go beyond regulatory requirements by adopting a culture of continuous improvement in EHS controls.

Co-operation with organisations such as the Blacksmiths Institute, who presented on legacy pollution challenges in developing countries, will be important in rebuilding trust in the lead industry and the work undertaken by the International Lead Management Center described by Brian Wilson was a tangible demonstration of this commitment.

Summing up ILA Managing Director Dr Andy Bush said “The success of Pb2013 confirmed the event’s place as the leading forum for the lead industry and its users around the world to discuss the future for lead.  This year’s event clearly demonstrated that while the lead industry will undoubtedly face many challenges in the coming years, it is committed to demonstrating its value to society and indeed further enhancing this through a variety of continuous improvement initiatives.”


Companies that attended:

Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium, Aurubis AG, Azor Ambiental SA, BakerHostetler, Baterpol SA, BCT Banner Commodities Trading AG, Berzelius Metall Gmbh, Blacksmith Institute, BMG Metall & Recycling GmbH,
Boliden Bergsoe AB, Britannia Refined Metals, Calder Industrial Materials,
Campine Recycling NV, Continuus-Properzi SpA, D'Huart Industrie,
Directorate of Environment and Classified Establishment, DNV Business Assurance, Dross Engineering SAS,

East Penn Mfg Co Inc, Ecobat Technologies Asia, Energy Storage Publishing Ltd,
Enersys AD Targovishte, Engitec Technologies SpA, ENVIRON International Corporation, Envirowales Limited, EppsteinFOILS GmbH, ESCA Tech, Inc, EUROBAT, Eurometaux, Exide Technologies GmbH, Fenix Metals Sp, Fiamm Energy LLC, FIAMM SpA, Gopher Resource LLC, Gravita India Limited, Hindustan Zinc Ltd, Hoppecke Batterien GmbH,

ILMC, ILZRO, ILZSG, IMN Oddzial W Legnicy, Indian Lead Zinc Development Association, International Aluminium Institute, Interstate Battery System of America Inc, Jász-Plasztik Kft, Johnson Controls Recycling GmbH, KCM AD, KGHM Polska Miedz SA, Kovohutĕ Příbaram, Lead Sheet Association, Luminous Power Technologies (P) Limited, Lundin Mining Corporation, MACH TRADE spol sro, Magnesium Elektron, Met Trade India Ltd, MetAlliance LLP, Metallo Chimique NV, Mittal Pigments Pvt Ltd, Nile Limited, Nizi International, Nyrstar, Penox GmbH,

Recobat SL, Recylex GmbH, Reem Batteres & Power Appliances Co SAOC,
Rohr & Stolberg, RPS, RSR Corporation, SAS Exide Technologies,
Sepahan Battery Industrial Complex, Shenyang Jugu Equipment Manufacturing Co Ltd, Société de Traitements Chimiques des Métaux, Supreme Batteries Pvt Ltd, Teck Metals Ltd, The Doe Run Company, The Doe Run Resources Corporation, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Niton Europe GmbH, Traxys Europe SA, Trichy Metals & Alloys, WL Gore and Associates, Weser-Metall GmbH, Wood Mackenzie.

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