Everything You Need to Know About Copper Recycling

Jun 26, 2019 | General

Copper Recycling: A Valuable Waste Reducing Method

We only have a limited amount of materials on this planet. We use things at an alarming rate, and it isn’t slowing down any time soon. Even things that we take for granted every day could end up becoming a rare commodity if we aren’t careful. This includes something as simple as copper.

Copper is a metal used in a lot of everyday products, such as wire and jewelry. As mentioned, we only have a certain amount of copper in the world. For that reason, many establishments have been developed to reuse unwanted copper into something new.

Recycling is a much more environmentally friendly process than mining new copper. It’s also a way for people to make money.

Gathering up copper and selling the scrap metal may be a way for someone to make some extra money. In order to do this, it’s important to separate the copper from other metals. It’s also important to separate the copper itself as there are different grades of copper which will be explained later. Then the recycling plant, such as CJD E-Cycling, can go about getting it ready for its next use.

Here is everything you need to know about copper recycling.

About Copper

Copper is a type of metal. It is used in wiring, motors, plumbing, machinery, roofing, and a number of other things.

Copper is a non-ferrous metal. That means that it does not contain iron. Metals without iron are typically more expensive than ferrous metals with iron. If you aren’t sure if the object you’re looking at is made of ferrous or non-ferrous metal, use the magnet test. If the magnet sticks to the object, it contains iron. Brass, aluminum, and stainless steel are examples of other non-ferrous metals. Ferrous metals include steel, iron, and titanium. This will be important in copper recycling later when you need to separate your materials.

Copper is also particularly good at conducting electricity. Silver is the only other material in the world with higher conductive properties. That’s why copper is used in so many wires today. It’s important for electricians when they create electric lines. It’s also important for construction workers when they build around electric lines.

History of Copper

The first copper jewelry was found in the Middle East. It is thought to be from about 87,000 BC. Ever since then, the material has been used in numerous other ways, especially construction. In fact, it was used in buildings instead of rock as early as 8000 BC. Soon after that in 4000 BC, people in ancient Egypt were melting the copper down to mold it into shapes. When people learned how to use this technology in more practical ways, it lead to a whole new era known as the Bronze Age.

Copper was found all over the ancient world. Ancient Romans found most of their copper on the island of Cypress. It was originally called the “metal of Cypress” in Roman before gradually getting the name we know today.

Copper is naturally found all around the world. Ever since ancient times, people have seen the capabilities of copper recycling. There is evidence that even ancient civilizations reused copper. 

Copper in the United States

Copper is one of the items that we in the United States largely produce for ourselves. We are the second largest manufacturer of copper behind China, so we get to sell it to other countries, too. In fact, 8% of the copper in the world comes from the United States. Of course, a lot of this comes from copper recycling.

In the United States, we have more than 1.5 metric tons of copper. It is located mostly in the American West, particularly in the following states:

  • Arizona
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Utah

 We are mostly keeping these copper reserves for future use. Rather than mining more copper, we are utilizing copper recycling methods to help produce like-new copper in the easiest, cheapest, and most environmentally-friendly way. 

Reasons to Recycle Copper

There is a good chance that the copper items in your home were actually once a much different object before the copper was reused and for good reason! It’s an easy item to reuse and recycle, and it’s helpful to do so.

 There are a number of reasons that we use copper recycling instead of mining new copper. One of the main reasons is that it takes about 90% less energy to recycle copper than to mine it. When we use less energy, we are putting less pollution into the air. Mining uses valuable resources, creates a lot of pollution, and it costs a lot more money. The cost of mining is extreme, so reusing the copper we have already procured keeps manufacturing low and retail costs low.

 Also, copper is non-renewable. That means that when we use up all the copper available, there won’t be any left. That sounds scary, but the good news is that we’ve only depleted about 12% of the world’s copper supply so far. The good news continues, because copper is a great metal to be reused and recycled, so the copper levels won’t deplete very quickly as long as we continue copper recycling.

 Finally, people can make money from recycling. Copper is one of the most lucrative materials for people who collect scrap metal to sell under brass. In fact, it maintains about 90% of its original value in ideal cases. That brings it to about $2 – $4 per pound of copper. It’s also relatively easy to find this metal. If you want to take advantage of the opportunities, you need to know where to find copper.  

Where to Find Copper

One of the best places to find copper is on a construction site. Houses use a lot of copper. Look through the trash on a construction site for any copper that might have been accidentally discarded. There’s usually plenty of copper wire. There’s also copper in fittings, valves, and other hardware. You may also find trace amounts of copper in a number of appliances in your home.

It’s best to gather up the copper you gather into one large pile until you are ready to make a large trip to the recycling center. If you make several trips, you will end up paying more money in gas. You’ll also be putting more toxins in the air by driving more.

Separating Copper For Recycling

Everyone knows that you have to separate materials before going to the recycling center. However, you have to separate the different types of copper as well. You may think that all copper is the same, but that’s not the case. Here are the different types of copper to separate.

– #1 copper

This is the most expensive copper since it is in the best condition. It does not have any insulation on it, and it doesn’t have any oxidization or oil on the material. Many people will strip all insulation away from the pure copper. If you do not want to strip the wires beforehand, the wires should also be separated by itself into another pile.

– #2 copper

This is the second level down from #1 copper. It may have some imperfections to it, causing it to be more complicated to clean and recycle. Copper pipes with oil or residue on it are examples of #2 copper. This means that you will get a lower price for this copper.

– #3 (roofing) copper

Roofs go through a beating during their lifetime. Even the installation process covers the copper roofing material in tar and paint that might still be there when you’re ready to get rid of it. That’s not to mention all of the dirt and grime that will find its way on the roof as well.

– copper wiring

If you don’t know how to strip the insulation off copper wiring (or don’t want to) it will go in this final and least expensive category. It’s best to avoid stripping any wire, less than the width of your pinky.

 If you don’t know how to separate your copper properly, the people at an e-waste recycling center can answer any questions you have. The more you do it, the more you will learn. The more you learn, the more money you will make when you sell your scrap metal. The better scrap metal is separated, the easier it will be for the recycling center. That means that they will pay you more. 

How Copper is Recycled

Copper recycling is a very detailed process. There are variations depending on the copper being recycled, but it generally goes through the same process.

 First, copper is put through an assembly line that breaks down the copper to very small pieces that separates the pure copper from any insulation or any other objects it’s combined with. There are also times when copper is mixed in with other materials, such as lead or tin. Copper recycling processes may skip the refining process and keep the materials together if it will cost more money to separate the materials than to keep them combined. If you have any questions on what will happen with your scraps, ask the people at the e-waste recycling center.

 After all insulation and other materials are separated from the copper, the copper is put through a grueling process. It goes through a screener that examines the quality. It is then put through a density separator to divide them even further. It then goes through an inspection. This copper is finally taken to the final stage of the process where it is turned into 5/16 rods. These rods are then used to make whatever products are in demand. It will be back in the store on the shelf with no sign of it being recycled except maybe a sticker on the packaging.

 There are very strict requirements throughout the process, and all copper that comes out of the recycling process will be as clean and pure as possible.

 Copper used in wiring is the most difficult for copper recycling. This is its biggest downfall when it comes to recycling. We are finding better ways to accomplish the goal of reusing copper in wiring, but it doesn’t help that electrical systems are growing all over the world. CJD E-cycling and others are making this a priority in order to keep up with future needs. 

Throwing Away Copper

Our landfills are getting more full every day. We need to find space to keep this trash, and then we need to use valuable resources to take care of it. Adding copper to these landfills is a completely unnecessary action that has negative effects on the environment. Why throw away material that can be used over and over again with very little trouble? It’s every person’s responsibility to keep copper out of the trash can and into the recycling bin. If we don’t, the copper supply will disappear much more quickly than it has to. Not only will prices go up until it disappears, but we will be forced to use subpar materials as well. Don’t throw away copper unnecessarily. E-waste recycling companies are happy to pay you for your efforts.

 The more you know, the more you will be able to help the environment as well as your wallet. Copper is a very useful material, and it’s our responsibility to utilize it to its fullest potential before the supplies deplete to nothing. Too many people throw copper away, but throwing it away is only adding to the already giant landfills that are getting out of control. With just a little bit of effort, it can be handled more properly. Gather up the copper in your home and take it over to the nearest recycling center. Just be sure to separate things beforehand to help the people at the E-waste recycling center and earn yourself even more money.