Over the years, alongside constant growth in the lead industry, there has been exponential growth in lead consumption. According to research, by the year 2020, there will be around 37 million lead batteries in micro-hybrid cars across the globe. Lead is a pliable metal and resists corrosion, making it a suitable metal for various industrial purposes. While it is a useful material within the industry, it is highly toxic to humans. If lead particles are ingested or inhaled, people can become seriously ill. Lead recycling requires a series of strict tasks to prevent it from infusing groundwater through landfill sites.
When released into the environment, lead gets leached into the soil, air, and water. Furthermore, because it is resistant to corrosion, it doesn’t decompose easily.
How is Lead Recycled?
If you have any materials that are made of lead, you can take them to your local metal recycling company. However, not all metal recycling companies accept lead-based materials, so make sure you call ahead and confirm that they can take it.
If they refuse, you can take the material to your local waste management agency; they will provide guidance regarding the proper disposal of the lead-based item.
Recycling of Lead-Based Paint
The lead infused into paint is stable until it is sanded or disturbed. Once that happens, it becomes airborne and can be ingested or inhaled. If you wish to remove lead-based paint from your house, it is important to hire a professional to do this on your behalf. Moreover, chips of paint that have fallen onto the ground must be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of accordingly.
If you have lead-based paint stored in your garage, then call your local waste management agency and find out how to properly and safely dispose of the container.
Recycling of Lead-Acid Batteries
Lead-acid batteries are highly hazardous for health and the environment. They are found in many vehicles and machines. When you purchase lead-based batteries, ensure that suppliers take back the old ones. If suppliers don’t accept old batteries, call the local HHW (Household Hazardous Waste) facility and ask whether they accept lead-acid batteries for the purpose of recycling.
Lead Recycling Process
The following are the main steps of the lead recycling process:
- Accumulation and Transpiration
The first step is to collect lead products from metal dealers, recycling businesses, car workshops, and DIY stores and take them to collection points. Subsequently, this scrap metal is accumulated by a company that specialises in this and it is then sent to the smelter.
- Lead Processing
Once the lead materials reach the smelter, they are broken down into separate lead scrap from other components. Thee lead elements are then smelted and refined systematically.
Once the lead is refined, it is ready to be used in the production process of various materials such as cable sheathing, radiation shielding, and construction materials.
Benefits of Recycling Lead
The following are some prominent benefits of recycling lead:
- Preserve Natural Resources
Recycling lead comes with an insignificant carbon footprint compared to mining. It further prevents excessive exploitation of ore reserves and reduces waste generated from lead extraction.
Recycling lead is a more cost-effective task than mining lead from ore. In fact, recycled lead consumes around 25% of the energy needed to generate lead from the virgin lead.
- Prevent Health Hazards
Even a small amount of lead can create serious health issues. Recycling lead means there is less chance of lead components being infused into the environment. This helps in preventing health risks associated with lead inhalation or ingestion.
The Bottom Line
Collecting and recycling lead holds significant advantages. Lead recycling helps to reduce the emission of lead components into the environment and prevent damage to natural resources. Furthermore, the use of recycled lead in the production of various new products is proven to be highly energy efficient. It only consumes 35–40% of the energy required to generate primary lead from scratch. Lead is one of the rare metals that can be re-melted and recycled without a negative impact on its quality, hence making it an ideal metal for a circular economy.