The Scrap Value of Copper
Recycled copper can be used just as effectively as pure copper for everything from electrical applications to electrical wiring. Purity is key in order to ensure resilience and conductivity, so that the finished copper product is not compromised (based on manufacturer’s standards).
Beyond being less valuable on the market, impure scrap copper is problematic because it can’t be used universally in manufacturing. However, when it comes to non-electrical purposes, recycled copper can be effectively used for producing plumbing, roofing, and other industrial materials.
By any definition, copper is valuable, and every effort is made to avoid waste in industry and manufacturing. Wherever possible, copper is recycled and re-fabricated into new products:
- roofing materials
- enameled wiring
- heavy duty cables
- HVAC components
Benefits of Recycled Copper
When it comes to environmental sustainability, both citizens and industry must follow the basic principles of reducing, reusing, and recycling. As it turns out, copper is probably one of the most recyclable metals in the world. And scrap copper is plentiful in everything from electric wiring, to electronic equipment, to plumbing pipes and drainage.
In Europe, over 40% of material demand for copper is accommodated with recycled copper. This means that copper mining and refining are dramatically reduced, along with the harmful effects associated with processing. More than that, copper that is being recycled is being diverted from landfill sites – a major environmental accomplishment.
Recycling copper uses substantially less energy than extraction and refining. This is a major saving on energy consumption, and a major reduction in the amount of CO2 released into the environment. Because virgin copper ore is a finite resource, there really is no other option but to recycle all existing copper to the maximum possible.
The bottom line with copper is that it’s cheaper to recycle than to mine and extract. Furthermore, recycled copper has a value of up to 90% of the original copper it was made of. So just in terms of economics, recycled copper actually helps to keep the cost of manufactured copper products low.
Industry stats indicate that about one-third of copper consumption around the world is actually from scrap. When demand for copper exceeds supply, higher prices abound for both virgin copper and scrap copper. Consequently, the opposite applies when demand lessens. Scrap copper generally comes from discarded copper solids, copper wiring and copper tubing – much of it coming from discarded air conditioners, cars and other vehicles, and building materials. When the market is flush, there are also large supplies of copper “off-cuts” which come from manufacturing facilities and industrial factories. These all make up the “hidden deposits” of scrap copper. In less flush markets, scrap copper volumes decline because the manufacturing sector is sluggish, and fewer goods are produced. As a result, there are fewer “off-cuts” created, and in general, there is less waste generated. As well, when world economic growth is slow, fewer people are scrapping their air conditioners, vehicles, and other copper-laden items. In a nation like China, for example, they’re using about 60% of the world’s copper scrap just in their own smelting industry.
So it’s easy to see how those dynamics can affect supply and demand in Richmond Hill, Ontario, and throughout central York Region. Supply and demand fluctuations can also bring copper prices into relative balance, and there are industry experts who tell us that scrap copper can act as a stabilizing force in an otherwise unstable environment. It looks like recycling copper cables; copper wiring; and copper tubing can create some continuity in the marketplace. Apart from commodity influences and associated market forces, copper is still considered number one in the metals recycling sector, with quality as a primary consideration. Pricing will always be based on the grade of scrap material, on purity, on the condition, and on various factors the affect the copper content. For that matter, production problems at copper mines can also cause havoc in the marketplace - shutdowns, accidents, and disruptions can cause copper inventories to rise and fall, and cause uncertainties in the market. Bottom line, whether its suppliers, consumers or traders, everyone is affected by price fluctuations, and everyone responds and reacts in their distinctive way.