In February 2019, the Socrates team published its third policy brief, answering the question why “Lead metallurgy is fundamental to the circular economy”. In a press release the authors alerted that ‘The EU’s circular economy plans risk stalling if regulators pursue ill-judged restrictions’. Not much later, the policy brief was picked up in various international fora.
Mid-March, Lisa Allen, ‘Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals’ (short REACH) Manager at the International Lead Association, wrote a blog about the “Socrates and the philosophy of the circular economy”. Shortly after, the Socrates project was invited to present the policy brief at the General Assembly of the International Lead Association.
On June 18, 2019, dr. Annelies Malfliet presented SOCRATES project and the key message of the SOCRATES policy brief “Lead Metallurgy is Fundamental to the Circular Economy” as guest speaker at the Lead REACH Consortium General Assembly. She underlined the importance of lead as a carrier metal which allows to recover and recycle everything from silver to cadmium. Lead is a key enabler in the circular economy, as it is capable of dissolving and carrying a multitude of technology elements. The Lead REACH Consortium is an initiative of the International Lead Association (ILA). The ILA supports its 90 members involved in the mining, smelting, refining, recycling and manufacturing of lead, lead compounds and lead products to meet the REACH regulations.
Dr. Annelies Malfliet presenting the Socrates policy brief: Lead Metallurgy is Fundamental to the Circular Economy
On June 20, 2019, Prof. dr. Markus Reuter repeated this same message during the International Lead Association conference in Madrid (Spain): “The wheels of the circular economy do not turn anymore without lead”. His presentation can be downloaded here. The concept that lead metallurgy is key to the realization of the Circular Economy was well received by the attendants and echo’ed further on social media.
Prof. Dr. Markus Reuter's message echo'ed further on social media.
Five key lessons learned are highlighted in the policy brief:
Lesson 1: Lead is frequently seen as a problematic metal that can be detrimental to human health; what is much less well known is its fundamental role in extractive metallurgy and how this is closely associated with the Circular Economy.
Lesson 2: Molten lead has unique properties that means it can act as an efficient liquid carrier for critical raw materials such as In, Bi, Cd and Te.
Lesson 3: Restricting lead metallurgy in the EU would not only have a detrimental impact on the lead industry, but also on all the industries linked to it that work with elements like Ag, Cu, Sb, Sn, Te and Zn.
Lesson 4: The focus must be on correctly and comprehensively minimising the risks of lead-containing materials for society and carefully managing them, rather than attempting to ban the use of lead.
Lesson 5: An environmentally friendly and energy-efficient lead infrastructure together with the associated research and know-how in Europe is absolutely vital if the continent is to maintain its global leadership in the Circular Economy.
Read the full policy brief.