The metal fuelling the EU’s homegrown battery powerhouse


Dr. Steve Binks

Regulatory Affairs Director

International Lead Association

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The metal fuelling the EU’s homegrown battery powerhouse

One of the priorities of EU Green Week is building a more sustainable economy while securing the supply of raw materials. Dr. Steve Binks outlines how the lead battery value chain supplies Europe with reliable, advanced batteries using responsibly sourced and recycled materials from within its own borders.

Lead batteries continue to play a vital role in our everyday lives – from transportation to telecoms and healthcare. Underpinning this essential power source is a fully sustainable EU circular economy that proves the rule that you can make and recycle batteries end-to-end in a secure, safe, and sustainable way, today, in Europe.

Lead is a metal that can be infinitely recycled without any loss of performance. Almost all the lead batteries collected throughout the EU are fully recycled to produce battery grade raw materials. On average more than 80% of a new lead battery is made up of recycled material, most of it originating from collected EU waste. And the vital active ingredient – lead – is produced in Europe, mostly from recycling. No other battery chemistry can currently match this impressive sustainability credential.

This is the circular economy in action. It is not a theory, neither a concept, nor a goal. It is happening right here, right now on a vast scale – more than a million tonnes of lead batteries are recycled in the EU every year to provide the critical raw materials for Europe’s advanced battery manufacturing industry.

Raw materials are crucial to Europe’s economy. They form a strong industrial base, producing a broad range of goods and applications used in everyday life and modern technologies. Reliable and unhindered access to certain raw materials is a growing concern within the EU and across the globe. The EU’s industry and economy are reliant on international markets to provide access to many important raw materials since they are produced and supplied by third countries.

Vast amounts of metal and minerals will be necessary to deliver the clean energy technologies required to support the EU’s ambitious low carbon targets. As the recent International Energy Agency report on the role of critical minerals in clean energy transitions points out, the ambitious plans for green growth will place severe strain on the supply of metals and minerals, making the secure supply of lead for battery technologies and the transition to a low carbon future more significant.

Many raw materials are sourced from around the world where supply is, to say the least, a matter of concern. In contrast, Europe’s lead value chain is strategically autonomous – ensuring raw material supply for batteries from within and reducing reliance on sourcing from other regions.

The drive to achieve a low carbon future and transform our economies into powerhouses of green growth requires new thinking on how the EU sources its raw materials and retains their value for future generations. The strategically autonomous lead industry is already a successful example of this, fuelling a sustainable, circular economy for batteries right here in the EU.

Read more on how renewable energy has the power to shape our future.

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