Something fishy’s going on in Sweden
The European Union is currently consulting on a proposal which could, if supported, restrict the use of lead metal in products. This would be a backwards step with all sorts of unintended consequences for the economy and our way of life. One of the challenges we face is that many decision makers – be they regulators, administrators or politicians – do not know enough about the value of this product and its essential use in our economy, indeed in our day-to-day lives. And they often do not appreciate just how well regulated and sustainable our product is already.
Reality is often skewed by perfectly understandable perceptions usually based on historic uses of lead outlawed decades ago. This in turn means that lead’s many positive – indeed essential – applications in almost every aspect of our lives, are often overlooked by decision-makers, regulators and legislators.
For companies such as Boliden, based in Sweden – the Member State behind the current EU consultation on lead – the modern reality of our industry is very different from outdated perceptions. The lead and lead battery industries are not only supporting a sustainable and environmentally-friendly future, they’re an essential part of it. Which brings me to the freshwater Tilapia fish.
This is a highly-valued source of protein in Sweden and Boliden – a recycler of lead batteries – farms and produces about six tonnes of this unassuming fish for the Swedish food industry. And they do so using their lead plant, with warm water tanks heated as a by-product of their lead production.
Boliden’s warm water tanks housing Tilapia
That’s not all. The Tilapia fish’s poo is a highly sought-after fertilizer, so another important offshoot from the plant can go back into agriculture. Meanwhile Boliden is also experimenting with algae, in a programme with RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden), a project which is assessing ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, the company is planning a renewable energy grid, which stores electricity – using advanced lead batteries – produced by solar panels.
This is just one example of hundreds of similar projects worldwide where modern lead batteries provide energy storage solutions for micro-grids and other applications. So, while it may seem counterintuitive to many, lead-based products and advanced lead batteries are an important part of Europe’s renewable energy future.
And that’s just one reason why regulators must weigh these issues very carefully and avoid decisions with unintended consequences.