Scrap copper is valuable – not like gold or silver – but it’s in demand and accessible – so it’s valuable. So much so, that people are stealing it and selling it. The truth is, high scrap copper prices actually make “legal” collection quite viable, without the need to steal. In fact, the daily price-per-pound of copper can make for profitable collection activities, even for the small operator. Today, the recycling of scrap copper is like a miniature economy of its own.
Copper and copper alloys (metals that have copper as a major constituent) have been recycled since almost the beginning of time. Used copper (which then becomes scrap copper) has never really been considered waste. It has always been considered an excellent raw material for re-manufacturing and can be as cost efficient, or more, than virgin copper ore. And in terms of economics, the higher the scrap copper prices, the more worthwhile it is to collect, process and re-use.
The quality and purity of scrap copper is vital, because scrap copper prices vary directly with the quality and purity of the load. Uncontaminated scrap is much simpler to process, refine and re-manufacture. Conversely, impure scrap copper requires more refining and the whole process gets more costly. Where the scrap copper is extremely contaminated, refining is still possible, a more costly endeavor, but still worthwhile.
Just by example, the electrical industry makes use of recycled copper after it has been processed and refined into quality material that is categorized as “Grade A”. At this standard of quality, the recycled copper is as good as pure copper. In other industrial applications, like plumbing and roofing, usage of recycled copper is similar. But the common denominator is always scrap copper prices, since this will always have a direct impact on the recycled and re-manufactured copper that will be re-used.
Scrap copper prices are responsive to fluctuations in the global market like other commodities. It holds true around the world, and it applies equally to large refiners and recyclers, as it does to the small collector who has one truck and one forklift. And today, the copper market is so sophisticated that prices are monitored throughout the day, and from continent to continent. Locally, companies like Tal Metal Recycling Inc. are focused on scrap copper prices practically around the clock.
Inasmuch as scrap copper collection is critical to the supply side, the demand for recycled copper is at a peak. Copper wiring and copper plumbing are in high demand in the building industry, and the same is true for the auto industry. Notably, recycled copper usage in a North American car is around 50 pounds today, which is 40% more than 35 years ago. And copper can be recycled and re-used many times over, which makes the entire process extremely cost-effective.
Amazingly, every year, industries in North American recover almost as much copper from scrap as from virgin copper ore. Overall, industries are using recycled copper for nearly 3/4 of their needs – it just confirms how stable and hungry the supply and demand cycle remains.