Recycling

Europe’s demand for copper is increasingly met by recycling

Copper: the Recycling Champion

According to the International Copper Study Group (ICSG), about 50% of the copper used in Europe comes from recycling. This reveals our copper requirements are increasingly being met by metals recycling. This win-win situation is helping to supply our ever-increasing demand for the metal (+250% since the 1960s) while, at the same time, lessening the environmental impact of its production and ensuring sustainability and availability for generations to come.

A computer contains around 1.5 kg of copper, a typical home about 100 kg and a wind turbine 5 tons. Considering copper can be fully recycled and reused again and again, without any loss of performance, we have every incentive to ensure our products and copper waste are correctly processed when they reach the end of their useful lives. After all, the copper from one’s smartphone could end up as part of the water system in one’s home!

Copper recycling and waste management have become an important part of the supply chain, keeping resources local, creating local jobs, saving on landfill site space and incentivising the recycling of other materials.

Recycling Saves Energy and CO2
Recycling copper is a very efficient way of reintroducing a valuable material back into the economy. It requires up to 85% less energy than primary production. Around the world, it saves 100 million MWh of electrical energy and 40 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

In 2014, 2.1 million tons of copper were reused in Europe, coming from end-of-life products and directly-recycled factory waste. This increased recycling of copper is being driven by the growth in use of the metal across the planet and by demand for world class European companies’ pioneering technologies allowing for increased efficiency in refining secondary (low grade) scrap and in processing for direct melt high purity copper scrap. Copper is omnipresent in the equipment modern life depends upon more and more, namely high-tech products, electrical installations, engines, solar systems and smart buildings. Read more in the Applications section.

Since the mid-1960s, global demand for refined copper has increased by over 250% (from 5 million to 20 million tons). Mine production remains vital in order to meet this growing demand. Ensuring that sufficient copper will be available to meet society’s future needs will require increased levels of recovery and recycling, as well as substantial investments in mining.