ELSIA sponsored Life-Cycle Assessments demonstrate the sustainability credentials of lead sheet

(15 September 2014) A ‘cradle to grave’ study of architectural lead sheet has highlighted the significant environmental benefits obtained by its extremely high recycling rates and long service life.
As part of the industry’s drive to assess the environmental impact of lead sheet, the European Lead Sheet Industry Assocaiton (ELSIA) commissioned a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study for the EU region conducted according to ISO14040 and ISO14044 standards.

As well as highlighting the high recycling rate of lead sheet (>95%) the new study has given greater insight into the environmental profile of lead sheet across its entire life cycle. The main findings were:

• High recycling rates reduce its environmental impact – In part this is a result of its full recyclability which means there are no significant impacts associated with its end-of-life phase.

• Most of the environmental lifecycle impacts of lead sheet result from lead metal production, and very little from the manufacture of lead sheet itself

• Low generation of greenhouse gases – Lead sheet’s low melting point allows recycling of scrap lead sheet with minimal impact on global warming.

• Contamination of water and soil is low – Very low surface corrosion during the use phase of architectural lead sheet results in insignificant impacts on water and soil quality .

• No impact on resources – As 100% secondary materials are used in the manufacture of lead sheet there is no impact on primary reserves of lead and does not require mining operations.

The study highlights that lead sheet has a superior environmental performance compared with alternative building materials in a range of applications such as: cavity wall (comparison with reinforced EPDM, platicised PVC and SEBS), flashing (comparison with reinforced PiB and SEBS) and valley gutter (comparison with GRP).
ELSIA Technical Manager, Dr Alistair Davidson, said: “This study is a significant step forward for the lead sheet industry and provides an opportunity to highlight the excellent environmental profile of lead sheet.”

LCA is one of the tools used increasingly to examine the full environmental impact of a product through its entire life cycle. A typical ‘cradle to grave’ LCA study covers the mining and extraction of raw materials, their fabrication, use, and recycling/disposal and includes energy and transportation considerations and all the other product supplies required.

Data from the LCA will be added to publicly available reference life cycle databases so that it can be used by end-users, regulators and research teams to aid future material selection and policy decisions.

If you are interested in accessing the LCA conducted by ILA, please contact Dr Alistair Davidson


Notes to editors

About lead sheet
Architectural lead sheet is an attractive part of the skyline in many historic European towns and cities and is also a feature in many innovative modern building designs. More than 100,000 tonnes of lead sheet is also used in Europe each year, as a durable construction material and as a barrier to radiation. It is a durable product lasting more than 60 years, has an environmental footprint that is smaller than many alternatives and as it is extensively recycled it can be used repeatedly without loss of performance.

ELSIA is the trusted voice of the European lead sheet industry. Its members have production operations in France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Spain and the UK. ELSIA promotes the sustainability credentials of lead sheet and highlights the benefits of lead sheet as a long-term, low maintenance construction material with low environmental impact. Its membership is committed to a Code of Practice for the responsible use of lead sheet.
See here for a list of ELSIA members

About ILA
The International Lead Association is the worldwide membership body that supports companies involved in the mining, smelting, refining and recycling of lead. The ILA represents the producers of about 3 million tonnes of lead.

With offices in the UK and USA the ILA provides a range of technical, scientific and communications support and is focused on all aspects of the industry’s safe production, use and recycling of lead and helps funds bodies such as the International Lead Management Center and ILZRO.

The Lead REACH Consortium is a stand-alone project of ILA-Europe and its activities are funded by 100 member companies.

ILA also supports the Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium, which manages the research, development and promotion of lead-based batteries for markets such as hybrid electric vehicles, start-stop automotive systems and grid-scale energy storage applications. Visit