Lead In-Use Stock

The 20th century was a time of rapidly escalating use of lead (Pb). As a consequence, the standing stock of lead is now substantial. By linking lead extraction and use to estimates of product lifetimes and recycling, we have derived an estimate of the standing stock of lead throughout the century by top‐down techniques. We find that the stock of in‐use lead is almost entirely made up of batteries (68%), lead sheet (10%), and lead pipe (10%). Globally, about 200 teragrams (Tg) Pb was mined in the 20th century, and about 25 Tg Pb now makes up the in‐use stock, so some 87% has been lost over time. Nonetheless, about 11% of all lead entering use was added to in‐use stock in 2000, so the stock continues to increase each year. Currently, most of the stock is in Europe (32%), North America (32%), and Asia (24%). On a per capita basis, the global stock is about 5.6 kilograms (kg) Pb, and regional in‐use stock ranges from 2.0 kg Pb (Africa) to 19.7 kg Pb (Europe). From a sustainability perspective, we estimate that the global lead resource is around 415 Tg Pb. Were the entire world to receive the services of lead at the level of the developed countries, some 130 Tg Pb would be needed, so there do not appear to be significant long‐term limitations to the lead supply.

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