Voluntary Initiatives

Voluntary copper industry initiatives

The European copper industry’s products will contribute towards sustainable economic growth within the EU, as well as enhance the quality of the everyday lives of its citizens.

In this section, you can read about the voluntary copper industry initiatives on sustainability, the proactive efforts with regard to environmental protection and the health and safety of its workers, plus studies on the environmental impacts of using, and then recycling, copper products.

Copper Voluntary Risk Assessment

This comprehensive assessment, completed by the copper industry in 2008, covers the production, use and end-of life aspects of the copper value chain. It shows that the existing legislative framework generally safeguards Europe’s environment, the health of industry workers and the general public.

Following extensive review, the risk assessment was agreed by the European Commission’s Technical Committee for New and Existing Substances. The Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risk (SCHER) also performed an evaluation and further endorsed the conclusions on the environmental and human health risk characterisations.

In March 2009, the conclusions of this initiative were endorsed by the EU authorities and the Copper Voluntary Risk Assessment was the first industry report published on the website of the European Chemical Agency (ECHA). Read more.

The environmental profile of copper products through a ‘Cradle-to-Grave’ life cycle assessment

Improving the environmental performance of products, along with enhancing sustainability throughout the supply chain, has gained significantly in importance in recent years, both for consumers and industries.

In parallel, EU initiatives, such as the Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan, foster greater resource efficiency and innovation in more environmentally-friendly products. Moreover, in 2015 ECI and several of its fabricating member companies volunteered to the European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprint project initiated with the aim of developing a harmonized environmental footprinting methodology that can accommodate a broader suite of relevant environmental performance criteria.

Responding to requests from end-users and regulators, along with the industry’s own sustainable development goals, the copper industry has, since 2000, completed increasingly rigorous life cycle assessments (LCA) on the production of the main semi-finished copper products (tube, wire and sheet).  Read more.

International Maritime Organisation MARPOL Annex V and IMSBC Code Developments

ECI leads a project to help the global copper industry ensure the safe transport of solid bulk cargoes, under the new International Maritime Organisation guidance, while preventing pollution of the marine environment. Now, ECI is managing a Phase II project to support the industry in meeting its obligations under the IMSBC requirements regarding Materials Hazardous in Bulk (MHB). These impose additional requirements on the reporting, by shippers, of physico-chemical hazards and the human health hazards for workers during the loading, shipping and unloading of materials classified as MHB. Such a classification will increase the required level of risk management measures to ensure maritime safety. Read more.

How the copper industry ensures high environmental quality standards of water discharged from its production processes

With water being one of the natural resources used to produce copper, the European copper industry has invested significantly in on-site treatment facilities in order to ensure that discharges are safe and compliant with local permits. Read here examples which illustrate how the European copper industry has developed treatment processes both to minimise the amount of wastewater and to ensure it meets the required quality standards before it is redirected to streams, rivers and coastal waters. Read more.

Using copper outdoor structures in environmentally sensitive areas

So that copper outdoor structures can be used in environmentally sensitive areas, a model has been prepared to aide architects to understand  interactions between their building project and the surrounding areas.  By combining laboratory and field exposures based on a multi-analytical and cross-disciplinary research approach, a runoff rate model has been developed to enable predictions of runoff rates for specific designs or areas. The model considers the importance of the annual concentration of sulphur dioxide in the air, the average rain pH, the annual rainfall quantity, and the degree of surface inclination on the runoff rate process. Read more.