Recovering copper from cables – why is copper recycling cost-effective?
Why Recycle Copper?
Copper is one of the oldest use materials on Earth. For around 5000 years, copper was the only metal mankind utilised for anything. Its versatility is so great that it is still commonly used for various items to this day. From money to computer cables, copper can be found everywhere, easily recognisable thanks to its distinct brownish-red colour. Its ubiquity doesn’t just stem from its versatility, however – it’s also one of the world’s most reusable resources.
How recyclable is copper?
Copper is unique among metals because it has an infinite recyclable life. Whether on its own or in alloys such as brass or bronze, copper can be reused indefinitely without any loss in quality. Worldwide copper resources are estimated to be around 5.8 trillion pounds. Historically, around 0.7 trillion pounds of it have been mined, and all of it is still in circulation, thanks to its incredible recycling properties. Each year, nearly as much copper is recycled from other materials as there are items crafted from newly mined copper. Cables utilise mostly newly refined copper, but all other areas that use it, such as powder plants, ingot makers, foundries, and other industries, mostly deal with recycled copper scrap. The copper found in cables is thus highly sought-after, as there is no problem at all reusing it, as it’s relatively fresh, so-called “new” scrap.
The fact that copper is such an incredibly reusable material makes it an incredibly valuable resource. In this day and age, when being environmentally conscious is becoming increasingly crucial to maintain the well-being of our planet, a material that can be reused indefinitely is that much more crucial. That’s why copper is important, especially that found in cables.
How cost-effective is recycling copper?
Recycling pure copper and copper alloys can help save money through a number of means. First of all, it helps reduce landfill costs, as copper that is given a new life in another item does not fill up a landfill that has to be paid for. Recycling is also a much more energy-efficient process than copper extraction, which requires approximately 100GJ per tonne. Compared to that, recycling only uses up 10GJ per tonne – 10% of the extraction value. This not only helps reduce CO2 emissions, but also costs. In all, recycled copper is worth around 90% of new copper. Combining that with the fact that copper excavation is much more expensive, it goes without saying that recycling copper is the cost-effective way to go.