Lead batteries are the gold standard in adopting circular economy principles, through an end-to-end recycling process which maintains the value of the materials and resources used in manufacturing, returning them into the product cycle at the end of their life.
The lead battery industry already sets the standard for others to follow in the EU’s circular economy. Thanks to its long-established collection and recycling scheme, almost all used lead batteries are collected at end-of-life for recycling – the highest recycling rate of all battery technologies.
Lead batteries exemplify the fundamental principles of eco-design: they are designed to be recycled at end-of-life with more than 90% of their material being recovered. The average lead battery made in the EU today contains more than 80% recycled materials, and almost all of the lead recovered in the recycling process is used to make new lead batteries.
Lead batteries close the loop more effectively than any other battery technology. Lead can be recycled infinitely with no loss of quality or performance. Thanks to its closed-loop economy, the lead battery value chain generates billions of euros from its products at the end of life, conserving natural resources and minimising waste by returning the lead to the product cycle an infinite number of times.
The manufacturing stage of the lead battery lifecycle is one of the most environmentally sustainable of all battery technologies. Compared to other battery technologies, lead battery production has the lowest environmental footprint and lowest production energy and CO2 emissions. The use of recovered lead to produce new batteries is less energy intensive than using primary lead, helping to conserve the finite natural resources needed to support a growing demand for advanced lead battery technology.
Lead itself allows for other materials to embody circular economy principles and is a key enabler of metals recycling in Europe. It enables the recycling of a broad range of non-ferrous metals, from gallium used in mobile phones and solar panels, to precious metals including silver and gold.
According to an independent life cycle study, the environmental impact of making 12V automotive lead batteries in Europe is significantly lower than lithium ion phosphate, even though the difference in full cradle to grave impacts is small.