By 1746, when it was found out by German Andreas Marggraf, zinc was already used as a shield for steel. It has been widely used across centuries - it is known that approximately by the year 1.000 BC there were objects made of zinc scattered around the world. It is naturally present in rocks, soil, and water and in the air, and it is critical for the health and well-being of human beings, animals and plants.
By means of a hot galvanization process (anticorrosion), a process in which steel is placed onto a zinc bath, the zinc shields the steel and increases its resistance.
As it is a very versatile material, zinc has a critical role in several product and industrial applications. One of its main applications is to shield the steel against corrosion, making it more durable - which also means less costs and less environmental impact arising from maintenance. By the end of shelf life, products containing zinc may also be recycled and the zinc content can be retrieved with no loss of properties or quality.
Such innate characteristics - natural, critical, durable, recyclable - turns zinc into a desirable material for several applications and present in people's daily lives in many forms, such as in transportation, infrastructure, consumer goods, food, human and animal health. Due to zinc's durability and as it is 100% recyclable, zinc can help to save natural resources and to improve sustainability's performance.
All over the world, more than 11 million tons of zinc is produced every year.
Roughly 50% is used for galvanization, in order to protect steel against corrosion. Some 17% are used to produce bronze and another 17% go for producing zinc-based alloys, mainly for use in the mold forging industry.
Significant amounts of zinc are also used in compounds as zinc oxide and zinc sulfate, and also in applications for zinc sheets, such as roofs, spouts and land piping.
These first-use vendors then convert zinc into a broad range of products.