Zinc: Contributing to a Circular Economy

Written by International Zinc Association     October 11 2018 at 9:50 AM

Unlike a traditional linear economy (extract, make, use, dispose), in a circular economy, each new object is designed for maximum longevity and future reuse and, at the end of its life, becomes a potential resource, rather than an item of waste for disposal.

Circular economy encompasses more than the production and consumption of goods and services; it aims to disconnect economic growth from the depletion of natural resources.

Given its many attributes, including being essential, versatile, durable, and infinitely recyclable, zinc contributes to a circular economy in numerous ways.

Efficient Zinc Recycling

  • Zinc keeps its physical properties across its life cycle.
  • 30% of zinc produced worldwide originates from recycled or secondary zinc.
  • The level of zinc recycling increases each year.

Decreased Environmental Impacts

  • Fuel savings due to enabling lightweight automobiles.
  • Contribution to global CO2 reduction due to keeping steel in service longer.

Costs Reduction

  • The global cost of corrosion is $2.5 trillion. By significantly increasing the service life of steel, zinc reduces these costs and protects valuable steel resources for future generations.

Sustainable Production

  • IZA members have adopted a set of commitments to sustainability as set out in the Sustainability Charter.
  • Increased energy efficiency of zinc production. Since 2005, zinc producers have achieved a 24% reduction in primary energy needs.

Abundant Natural Resources

  • Zinc is the 24th most abundant natural element.
  • Zinc is essential for all living organisms.

Sustainable Improved Profitability

  • In addition to improving nutritional value, zinc increases crop yields which improves farmer’s income.

Sustainable Increased Service Life

  • Zinc protects steel from corrosion in transportation and infrastructure.
  • Zinc coatings extend the service life of solar and wind energy applications.
  • The service life of many zinc products exceeds 50 years:
    – Zinc metal roofs and facades have a product life of 100 years or more.
    – Hot-dip galvanizing provides protection from 10 to 170 years.


For more information, visit the International Zinc Association website.