Lead is a malleable and soft metal and it has been in use for around 5,000 years. The color of this naturally occurring element is bluish-white when it is mined. However, it soon appears dull grayish when exposed to air. It is also considered as the heaviest non-radioactive element.
Lead enjoys one of the highest rates of recycling of all metals commonly used today. Since it is corrosion resistant, this metal scrap is available for reprocessing decades or even centuries after it has been produced. Fundamental properties, good design and the ways in which it is used – all make Lead products easily identifiable and cost-effective to collect and reprocess. The amount of the metal reprocessed as a proportion of its total production is fairly high around the world. It has been estimated that over 50% of the Lead consumed is produced from re-used material. Moreover, the recycling rate of the product is estimated to be much higher in comparison to other metals. The best thing is that the process of recycling does not change the property of the metal and it remains similar to the virgin ore extracted from mining.
Sources of Lead Scrap
The prime source of scrap Lead for reprocessing in the US and also around the world is lead acid batteries, since the biggest consumer of the metal is the battery industry. According to estimation, today around 80% of the metal is used in manufacturing lead acid batteries, all of which are highly recoverable and recyclable. It has been found that used automobile batteries accounts for about 85% of the scrap metal. A further 6% of the material is used by the building industry mainly in the form of lead sheet. The metal also found its application in smaller volume in different other products that includes cable sheathing, radiation shielding and many other specialized applications like earthquake dampers. And most of them can be recycled to manufacture new products, conserving the precious natural ore.
In fact Lead-acid batteries are considered as the most recycled consumer product in the recent time.
Specifications for Lead Recycling
Two types of Lead specifications have been identified: one containing a minimum of 99.99% Pb and the other with a minimum of 99.97% Pb. The commonly found impurities in Lead are arsenic, antimony, bismuth, nickel, copper, tin, silver and zinc. It has been found that 99.99%Pb grade lead is generally produced by primary-lead companies, whereas 99.97% Pb grade is produced by the recyclers. The major point of distinction in the Lead grades is that recyclers do not generally remove the silver and bismuth during the process of refining. Thus reprocessed Lead contains a good amount of bismuth.
- Consumes Less Energy: The process of recycling of the used Lead products consumes only around one third of the energy required in producing the metal from virgin ore. It results in considerable conservation of energy and less carbon emissions.
- Benefits Environment and Human Health: Lead battery scarp is hazardous for human health and improper disposal of the product have adverse environmental effects. In this respect also, recycling of the metal is highly beneficial. Moreover, it is also cost-effective in comparison to the cost of disposal and treatment.
- Reduces Load on Landfills: A high rate of scrap metal recycling implies that less number of the lead manufactured products will end up in the waste stream. In recent times, the amount of the scrap material ending up in the landfills has reduced dramatically. Hence, landfill space is conserved.
- Cost-effective: Lead recycling is cheaper to produce than virgin ore. Moreover, the process of recycling scrap metal is considered as the least expensive waste management options in cities and towns.
Thus, it is found that scrap metal lead recycling is undoubtedly a valuable contribution to sustainability.
Source: ArticlesBase.com wrote by Fred Hoffman