copper element

The Many Faces of Copper

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 by Paige DiAntonio

The world is full of finite resources, most of which are not recycled.  In case you didn’t know, copper is a bit different.  According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), copper is the most recycled metals of all metals in existence.  Approximately 80% of the copper used to today has been recycled rather than mined from places such as Arizona, South America, and Africa. Why is that?

Copper is unique and valuable in the sense that it is 100% recyclable.  It is one of the few materials that can be recycled repeatedly without any loss in properties or performance.  There is also no difference in quality between mined copper, known as primary production, versus recycled copper known as secondary production, meaning the value of copper is consistent from the first time it leaves the Earth’s crust to the end of its life cycle.  It is estimated that two-thirds of the 550 million tons of copper produced since 1990 is still in circulation, emphasizing the eco-efficient way of re-introducing a valuable material back into the economy, according to the ASTM.

From an environmental perspective, recycling copper is also advantageous.  According to the Copper Alliance, the recycling of copper requires up to 85% less energy than primary production, saving over 100 million megawatts of electricity and 40 tons of CO2 annually.  In addition, copper is also an earth-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics, which are less frequently recycled.

Look around your area where you are currently reading this blog.  Do you spot any copper features?  What you see as a brass doorknob could have once been a faucet, which had once been part of an electrical application.  The recyclability of copper allows the metal to transform into many different products serving a vast range of industries emphasizing its overall practicality and value. 

So next time you see some copper, imagine the many things that it could have been or could be!


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