Proposal to include critical battery raw material on REACH Authorisation List would stifle innovation and investment, industry warns
Companies say ECHA’s plan to include lead metal on its eleventh recommendation for substances to be included in the REACH Authorisation List threatens a wide range of EU industries – from battery manufacturers to Europe’s metal recyclers – creating more bureaucracy and risking jobs and investment.
Businesses are calling on regulators to halt the plans, after the EU Chemicals regulatory body ECHA launched a public consultation. They warn the move could damage several essential sectors including those producing innovative energy storage solutions and involved in delivering a circular economy in recycled metals and materials.
An industry consortium representing more than 90 companies is seeking more proportionate regulatory measures to protect important European value chains.
ECHA is recommending that lead – a metal used to manufacture millions of batteries critical for everything from hybrid and electric vehicles to renewables energy storage – is added to the REACH1 ‘authorisation list’, signalling that the substance will eventually be substituted and in the meantime can only be used through granting of specific permission from the EU Commission.
The companies warn that EU “Green Deal” carbon reduction plans could be knocked off course if regulators include lead, a critical battery raw material, to the list of substances requiring authorisation to be used.
The move would impact the EU’s advanced battery manufacturing sector where approximately 90% of lead is used – with 80% coming from waste batteries collected and safely recycled at end-of-life. Lead batteries are one of the few examples in the EU of a truly circular economy where waste is converted into valuable new products, limiting the need to extract raw materials from the earth whilst creating a valuable energy storage solution and thousands of high-quality EU jobs. A sustainability success story that has environmental benefits that need to be better recognised by policy makers.
Industry leaders are warning that including lead on the REACH Authorisation List would potentially result in an investment freeze damaging a successful and globally competitive multi-billion-Euro battery value chain, which supports more than 180,000 jobs across EU member states2.
A recent economic impact study found that the Europe’s lead battery value chain spends almost 40 million Euro on R&D annually and enables downstream user industries contributing € 7.2 trillion worth of GDP2.
In a position paper the industry highlights that the lead value chain is already one of the most highly regulated industries in Europe, with some of the world’s most stringent rules protecting health and the environment that have already resulted in substitution where alternatives that meet end-users’ technical needs exist.
The consortium of companies representing a wide range of end uses are calling on ECHA, the European Commission and Member States to halt the proposed REACH Authorisation process that will add significant bureaucracy but bring little in terms of further protecting health and the environment. This is due to the existence of long standing and highly effective risk management measures that already limit risks presented by lead exposure, supplemented recently by REACH restriction activities that target residual risk resulting from use of lead in consumer products that can be accessed by young children, and ammunition.
Dr Inge Maes, Chair of the Lead (Pb) REACH Consortium and Sustainability Director at Aurubis Beerse, a leading global provider of non-ferrous metals said: “The lead value chain supports a range of vitally important EU industries and is key to delivering low carbon targets and supporting widespread electrification. As an essential raw material it is safely recycled and used in advanced manufacturing facilities across Europe which comply with or aim to exceed EU legislation designed to manage any risks.
“We already operate under some of the world’s most stringent regulations – for occupational safety, health and environmental standards – the measures we adopt to protect workers, the environment and the communities where we operate is world-class. The problem with the REACH Authorisation process is that it is a blunt and bureaucratic tool that would adversely impact a broad range of essential industries that are delivering services and products that are supporting EU Green Deal objectives such as reducing climate change and enhancing circularity. This makes no sense as, according to EU data, REACH Authorisation would add little to the protection of health and the environment – the remaining major sources of lead emissions in the EU are not in even scope of REACH Authorisation, and risk to workers is currently being addressed by the Commission through a strengthening of existing EU workplace standards”.
Batteries have been identified as one of the key enablers to meet future clean energy storage demand. Industry leaders are concerned that EU decarbonisation targets included in the Fit for 55 package will be impossible to meet if regulators target lead, the core material used in millions of new batteries required across a range of different applications including motor vehicles, trains, battery electric vehicles, back-up for uninterruptible power supplies and grid energy storage.
As well as batteries, lead is a vital raw material in other significant industries supporting Green Deal objectives including:
- Cables for renewable energy linking wind farms to the grid
- Solar panel systems
- Enabling recycling of other metals and transition technology elements.
In addition, its unique properties mean that it is critical to ensure safety in the aviation sector, hospitals, and the nuclear industry.
The industry consortium has produced a series of factsheets detailing the key role lead plays in Europe. The European lead usage resource, Lead Matters highlights lead’s role in battery manufacturing, aviation, precision engineering, renewable energy and space.
Notes to Editors:
- The Lead (Pb) REACH Consortium is a voluntary initiative managed by the International Lead Association (ILA). The Consortium represents a membership of more than 90 legal entities involved in the mining, smelting, refining and recycling of lead, as well as manufacturers of lead compounds and producers of lead-based automotive and industrial batteries. www.ila-reach.org/
- Spokespeople available for interview / comments:
- Dr Inge Maes, Chair of the Lead (Pb) REACH Consortium and Sustainability Director at Aurubis Beerse, part of the Aurubis Group. Aurubis is a leading global provider of non-ferrous metals and the largest copper recycler in Europe www.aurubis.com/
- Karsten Kurz, Director Environmental Affairs, Europe at Exide Group. Exide Group is a global leader in batteries, committed to providing world-class stored energy solutions www.exidegroup.com/en
- Lead Matters is a collaborative campaign which showcases the essentiality of lead metal across Europe. Developed by the Lead (Pb) REACH Consortium, a voluntary initiative managed by the International Lead Association (ILA), it supports over 40 sectors in highlighting the vital, safe and sustainable use of lead in their industries. www.LeadMatters.org
- Read the REACH Annex XIV lead metal authorisation position paper here
- Read the ‘Economic Contribution of the European Lead Battery Industry’ report here
For further information, contact: Hywel Jarman, Director of Communications, International Lead Association: Email: [email protected] Tel: +44 (0)20 7833 8090 +44 (0)7718 483887; or Fareha Lasker, Communications Manager Email: [email protected] +44 (0)7936 371985.
- REACH – Regulation of the European Union about the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals
- EBP 2021: Economic Contribution of the European Lead Battery Industry