Copper is an extremely valuable metal. It’s been used for thousands of years for everything from tools and weapons to the electronics that we enjoy today. Its versatile properties like high corrosion resistance, malleability, and electrical and thermal conductivity make it a necessary part of our everyday lives. As the concern for environmental sustainability grows, so does the importance of recycling copper.
One of the coolest properties of copper is that it can be recycled over and over again without losing any of its inherent properties. This sets it apart from other materials that can lose various properties over time. It also means that, as the tools and products we use come to the end of their lives, the copper within them can be removed and used again and again for as long as people are willing to recycle it. That’s good news for the environment and for our world.
Benefits of Recycling Copper
What are the pros of recycling copper? And what impact can this have?
✓ Conservation of Natural Resources
The process of mining and extracting copper ore from the earth takes a lot of energy and causes a lot of harm to natural resources. While the need for copper is great, the price that is paid to find it and mine it is significant to the eco systems where it can be found. When you recycle your copper, you minimize the toll that is taken on natural resources and the ecological impact that mining has.
✓ Energy Efficiency
Recycling copper is also very energy efficient when compared to the energy it takes to mine and remove copper ore. Conservative estimates assume that recycling copper takes only 10-15% of what it takes to extract new copper. That means that, not only does recycling minimize the impact that the mining process has on the environment, but the costs saved by recycling translate to fewer greenhouse gas emissions globally and sustainability in copper supply.
✓ Economic Benefits
As the demand for copper continues to climb, so does the demand for affordable ways to acquire it. Because recycling copper costs so much less than mining and because it maintains its valuable properties, it remains affordable – which means that the products we use everyday can remain affordable as well. It also generates jobs within the recycling industry, which means more people are participating in the economy around the world.
✓ Waste Reduction
Recycling copper doesn’t just mean less mining of ore. It also means less waste going into landfills. Waste management systems are strained by space. The less that goes in the landfill the better. Discarded electrical wire and old plumbing pipes and fixtures are easily turned into other useful items – a much better alternative than being buried underground. Less waste leads to a more sustainable waste management strategy.
✓ Reduction in Pollution
During the mining process harmful pollutants can be released into the air and into the ground. The same is true for the process of refining the copper ore. Sulfur dioxide and other heavy metals can be devastating to an ecosystem and they are both present in the mining and refining process. By recycling copper, we reduce the environmental impact of these processes, thereby mitigating air and water pollution and promoting a cleaner and healthier planet.
✓ Contribution to Circular Economy
A circular economy utilizes resources in a closed-loop system which minimizes waste overall and maximizes the uses of the resources available. Recycling copper is a natural part of this concept because it reintroduces the metal into new products without loss in quality.
The Process of Recycling Copper
So what actually happens to copper as it is recycled? Well the process involves some key steps that allow that old copper kettle to turn into the wires that charge your phone. Here’s a quick rundown of the process.
- Collection & Sorting: The first step is getting the copper from the consumer to the recycling facility. It comes in many different forms and materials. It can be found in anything from old electronics to plumbing fixtures to industrial waste. Once the copper finds its way into the recycling facility, it is separated from the material it was in and sorted out from other materials and metals that might be recyclable.
- Shredding & Pulverizing: Once it is separated from the materials that contain it, the copper is shredded and pulverized into little granules. This increases the surface area of the copper which makes it easier to continue its processing.
- Copper Smelting: It is at this point that the granulated copper is super heated and melted down. During this process of heating, the copper further separates it from any impurities that might still be present. The leftover impurities are called slag and can be used for other things.
- Fabrication: Now that we have pure copper again it can be transformed into the many products that need it. Because it is able to naturally retain its characteristics through the refining process it is as useful the second time around as it was fresh from the mine. The new copper will find its way into electrical wires, pipes, machinery, and a whole host of applications that we use everyday.
Harmon Scrap Metal Is Here to Serve You
At Harmon Scrap Metal we serve our community and our customers by recycling a variety of metals that would otherwise find their way into our landfills and cause problems for our environment. Your copper is valuable to you and to the world you live in. Call today or reach out online to find out how to turn your copper into money in your pocket and useful products for your community.