The economic and environmental benefits of recycling copper are given below and illustrate the sustainable nature of copper:
During mining and refining (purification) of copper, dust and waste gases such as sulphur dioxide are produced which may have a harmful effect on the environment. Although these harmful effects are minimised by copper producers (sulphur dioxide is captured and used to make sulphuric acid), with recycling there are little, if any, harmful gases emitted.
Copper and copper alloy objects which are not recycled might otherwise be dumped in holes in the ground – this is called landfill. These holes are rapidly being filled up and, as they become scarcer, landfill becomes a very expensive option for waste disposal (of any material).
In order to extract copper from copper ore the energy required is approximately 100GJ/tonne. Recycling copper uses much less energy, about 10GJ/tonne, that’s only 10% of the energy needed for extraction. This energy saving leads to the conservation of valuable reserves of oil, gas or coal and reduces the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.
Conservation of copper ore
To date only about 12% of known copper resources have been mined. However copper ore is a finite resource and it makes sense to conserve ore by recycling.
It is cheaper to recycle old copper than to mine and extract new copper. Recycled copper is worth up to 90% of the cost of the original copper. Recycling helps to keep the cost of copper products down.