How Romans pioneered silver recycling

, researchers at the University of Liverpool and the University of Warwick explain that extracting silver from ores and refining it at mints resulted in a lot of lead pollution. Ancient pollution entered the atmosphere, drifted across the Atlantic and left a pollution fingerprint in Greenland ice.

To explain this phenomenon, researchers Matthew Ponting and Jonathan Wood point to the Romans recycling silver, often plundered following conflicts in Iberia and southern France, to make coins.began appearing with very low levels of gold in them. The silver used for these coins also appears to have become part of the silver supply for coinage in the first half of the first century BC.

“Debasing silver was one way to deal with fluctuations in the silver supply. Melting down existing silver, either yours or someone else’s, was another,” Wood said. “For the Romans, recycling coins would have been considerably less expensive than extracting new silver—a benefit for their finances, as well as for the environment.

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