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Copper Recycling: Why it Matters

Updated: May 11, 2023

Adult and child hold separate ends of a blue recycling bin while looking at each other and smiling.

Many have claimed that copper is the world’s most reusable resource. This is because the unique properties of this metal maintain quality across uses. In other words, there is no difference in the quality of copper from a mine and copper that is recycled from past materials such a copper wiring or pipes. The Copper Development Association proposes that the copper found in the penny in your wallet may well be as old as the Egyptian pharaohs.

Copper has an infinite life if recycled properly! Committing to the faithful recycling of copper has an effect on C02 levels also. It takes significantly less C02 production to recycle copper than it would to mine more. Making the decision to reuse and recycle is a non-brainer for those concerned about energy efficiency and the ecological impacts of mining precious metals.

Currently, the driving force behind copper use is found in power generation due to copper's outstanding conductivity properties. This is projected to increase as energy efficient standards and the drive toward renewable resources continues. The second most common use of copper is in appliances and electronics. Responsible disposal of these household items is a practical and simple way that everyday consumers can ensure they are doing their part in the copper recycling process. In addition, recycling everyday electronics and appliance ensures the other metals present in these devices such as gold, silver, zinc, tin and lead are also being recycled.

According to the Copper Alliance, 8.7 million tons per year of copper comes from the recycling of old or used copper and scraps from the production and manufacturing of new copper materials. That means that over 30% of the copper value chain each year comes from recycled copper! While the need for new mining is unlikely to be eliminated entirely due to population growth, continued economic development, and technological innovation along with the fact that most copper is utilized for long term applications that last decades, as demand for copper increases, responsibly reusing this metal might solve some of the gaps between supply and demand.

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