The Process of Recycling Lead

Lead is a mineral that has been in use for at least 5000 years. According to the ILA (International Lead Association) in 2013, global secondary lead production was 6.1 million tonnes. It is one of the most effectively recycled materials in the world and today more lead is produced than is mined.

Lead-based products are easily identifiable, and economic to collect and recycle due to its fundamental properties. It is malleable and corrosion resistant. And it is incredibly dense making it excellent for protection against radiation. Lead is imperative to people working in hospitals, dental surgeries, laboratories and nuclear installations. The main application for lead metal are lead-acid batteries, which is the world’s most recycled consumer product.

The ILA states, “Lead-based batteries account for more than 80% of present day worldwide lead usage and have an extremely high rate of recycling—in Europe and USA the recycling rate is greater than 95%.” Recycling centers that operate under strict environmental regulations receive used lead-acid batteries (ULAB) from countries all over the world.

Before being sent to the collection points, ULAB are returned to car accessory dealerships, car workshops, recycling businesses, DIY stores and metal dealerships. Specialized companies pick up the batteries, which are safely transported and delivered to secondary smelting plants.

The components—lead metal, paste, plastics and electrolyte (acid)— of the batteries are broken down and separated. It is then smelted and refined. The refined lead produced is either used to make new batteries or to make other lead products such as those employed in building construction, cable sheathing and in healthcare as radiation shielding.

It is far more efficient to recycle than it is to produce lead from mining, and lead recycling saves energy and reduces carbon emissions. Medi-Ray understands the importance of recycling lead and that is why we provide our customers the ability to recycle the lead products we produce for them. Thirty years ago Medi-Ray developed this environmentally sound capability which has made Medi-Ray a leader in ecologically compliant operations which safeguard the public, guarantee the proper handling of used lead products, and is cost effective for customers.

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