ILA-sponsored Life Cycle Assessments demonstrate the sustainability credentials of lead
New studies commissioned by the International Lead Association (ILA) have given greater insight into the environmental profile of lead-based products across their entire life cycle.
As part of the lead industry’s drive to assess the environmental impact of lead and lead-based products, ILA commissioned three pivotal Life Cycle Assessment studies (LCA) for the EU region conducted according to ISO14040 and ISO14044 standards. LCA studies were carried out on Lead-Based Batteries and Architectural Lead Sheet, the two main uses for lead to supplement a ‘cradle to gate’ study conducted on the production of lead metal from ore and recycled lead containing waste.
All three studies highlight the significant environmental benefits obtained by the extremely high recycling rates for lead ( more than 95% for lead batteries and lead sheet ), exemplified by the ‘closed-loop system’ for the collection and recycling of lead-based batteries and lead sheet.
For the lead-based products the main findings were:
• Lead production (from ores or recycled scrap) is the dominant contributor to environmental impacts associated with the production of lead-based batteries
• Vehicle production has a far greater lifecycle environmental impact than battery production
• The high recycling rates associated with lead acid batteries dramatically reduce any environmental impacts
• In terms of Global Warming Potential (CO2 equivalent), the environmental advantage of Improved and Advanced technology lead-based batteries during the use phase far outweighs the impacts of their production
Architectural Lead Sheet
• Most of the environmental lifecycle impacts of lead sheet result from lead production
• High recycling rateof lead sheet reduce its environmental impacts
• When results of the LCA were compared with publically available data, the majority of environmental lifecycle impacts for lead sheet over the products lifecycle were lower than alternative roofing materials. This is due to the durability and long service life of lead sheet.
Virtually all vehicles globally need a lead battery while around 90% of batteries used for industrial applications (uninterruptable power supply, telecommunications, and forklift trucks) are also lead-based. More than 100,000 tonnes of lead sheet is also used in Europe each year, as a durable construction material and as a barrier to radiation.
ILA Managing Director, Dr Andy Bush, said: “These Life Cycle Assessment studies are a significant step forward for the lead industry and provide an opportunity to highlight the excellent environmental impact of lead-based products.”
LCA is one of the tools used increasingly to examine the environmental impact of a product through its entire life cycle. A typical ‘cradle to grave’ LCA study, such as these, covers the mining and extraction of raw materials, their fabrication, use, and recycling/disposal and includes energy and transportation considerations and all the other product supplies required.
Data from the LCAs will be added to reference life cycle databases so that they can be used by end-users, regulators and research teams to aid future material selection and policy decisions.
If you are interested in accessing any of the LCAs conducted by ILA, please contact Dr Alistair Davidson
For further information contact: Bob Tolliday, ILA Communications Manager, tel: +44 (0) 20 7833 8090
Notes to editors
The International Lead Association (ILA) is the worldwide membership body that supports companies involved in the mining, smelting, refining and recycling of lead. ILA represents the producers of about 3 million tonnes of lead.
With offices in the UK and USA the ILA provides a range of technical, scientific and communications support and is focused on all aspects of the industry’s safe production, use and recycling of lead and helps funds bodies such as the International Lead Management Center and ILZRO.
The Lead REACH Consortium is a stand-alone project of ILA-Europe and its activities are funded by 100 member companies.
ILA also supports the Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium, which manages the research, development and promotion of lead-based batteries for markets such as hybrid electric vehicles, start-stop automotive systems and grid-scale energy storage applications. Visit www.ila-lead.org