Proper Copper, Electronics, and Circuit Board Recycling

Aug 14, 2019 | E-Cycling

A Comprehensive Guide to Copper Circuit Board Recycling

About Copper

Copper or 29Cu is the 29th atomic number on the periodic table of elements. Copper is a naturally occurring metal. This means it occurs in a way that makes it usable as metal and made into any number of items. Throughout history, copper has appeared in building materials and weapons. Copper gets used in buildings, electronics, and wood preservatives in the modern age. It is also an essential element for the function of the human body. 

What has Copper in it?

Copper gets used commercially in most electrical products as superfine wire or circuits. If the circuits and wires are maintained during use and they have no flaws than they are perfect for recycling as scrap metal. Circuit board recycling is a common way to get high-quality copper This also means the surface of the copper is in excellent condition. Recycling copper for the best price and future repurposing is getting designated a grade ‘A’ quality product.

Copper acquired from power cables is also a fine wire with high connectivity. The quality is slightly less high than for commercial electronics, but it has a reduced amount of impurities. This type of wire will have a minimum amount of impurities, but when heated and mixed with a higher grade copper the high-grade copper will be diluted. This makes the wire reusable.

If the copper is not to be used for any products with connectivity, it can be repurposed into plumbing tubes, heat exchanges, and roofing sheets. The diluted copper is secondary copper, which has less connectivity than ‘A’ quality product so it can be used in products where connectivity is not a factor in its use.

Copper is commonly used in circuit boards and computers. Circuit board recycling and computer recycling is a growing concern for the number of hazardous materials they both contain. The disposal or repurposing of those materials is at the forefront of environmental concern. There are companies that make it their business to properly dispose of copper and other materials that occur in many electronics. This is a process known as ecycling and it can help you recycle copper and other materials safely.

How Does Copper get Recycled?

Recycling or ecycling electronics is easy when you visit licensed facilities with the right equipment. Most professional recycling or ecycling centers have special machines that can extract the copper directly from the product. Circuit board recycling is one of the most common ways people get copper out of a product. It is a fairly common practice as there is a growing awareness for the need to recycle more of the products we use. It also is something the casual recycler can profit off of. Many of the facilities that recycle copper will pay almost as much for used copper as they will for new. It is expensive to buy new copper because it is expensive to mine it so most places will pay top dollar for good quality copper.

Recycling copper starts with collecting any scrap copper from used devices or appliances. Computer recycling and circuit board recycling is quite common. Copper wiring is what can be obtained from most computer recycling and circuit board recycling. Copper pipes can be had from home remodels and can be found at rummage sales.

How much money you can make from copper recycling and the price you will receive for your copper depends on the grade of copper. The grade can be determined by where the copper came from or the degree of wear the copper shows.

What is the Value of Copper?

The grades of copper are one of the main things that determine the value of the copper and how much money you can get for it. The current market for copper will dictate what kind of a price you can get for the copper. If the copper market is not doing well, it can be more economical to wait to recycle the copper if you have the time to wait. 

‘A’ grade Copper

This is the highest grade of copper. The copper is clean and shiny and shows little wear. There will be few or no signs of tarnish or soldering. It should also not be coated copper. This is the highest grade of copper and a scrap metal buyer will pay the highest for the quality of the copper. The copper should be 16 gauge or larger in diameter and should be almost bare of flaws. Most copper pipe is not included in this grade.

First Grade Copper

This type of copper is almost the most profitable type of copper. To be classified as first-grade copper, it should be the wire that is at least 1/16th of an inch in diameter, commutator segments, clippings, or bus bars.

The copper should appear to be clean, uncoated and unalloyed. Copper pipe that is clean can qualify has first-grade copper as long as it does not show any other materials such as paint, soldering, insulation, or fittings. There should be few or no signs of corrosion and any fittings it may have had should have been removed.

Second Grade Copper

Coated copper has very little value. It is usually made of the lowest grade of copper and it often requires additional work to strip it from insulation or be in areas or items where it is difficult to get to it. It is easy to identify by the dirty appearance of it. The size of it should not exceed 16th of an inch in diameter. The metal should also be 94-96 percent copper content. If it has fittings or oxidation as will appear on some tubes, wires, or pipes this is acceptable as long as the damage to the product is not extensive.

‘A’ grade Copper Wire

This is the best type of copper wire for recycling. It is like regular copper pipe and pieces. If it is bright, shiny, and clean than it is more valuable and will pay more. It must be completely clean with no unalloyed wire, uncoated, and 16 gauges or greater in diameter.

First Grade Copper Wire

This wire is also clean or nearly so. It is uncoated, unalloyed, and has not been mixed with other materials like tin. First grade copper wire can be plastic insulated with a gauge or 16 ore larger. It does not need to be stripped, but it should be as shiny and bright as the highest grade of copper wire with few flaws.

Second Grade Copper Wire

This type of copper wire should be plastic wrapped or double insulated. It must be 16 gauge or thinner and unalloyed. This type of wire is generally found in electronics like extension cords or electronics like outlets. For this lower grade of wire, it is fine to have trace amounts of tin or nickel as well as some corrosion. You will not be paid as much for it as if it were clean wire, but still meets the right degree of classification.

Increase the grade by stripping any insulation off the copper as insulation decreases the value of any copper it covers. It is also worth the time in some cases to try to brush up and out many of the visual impurities to get the most for the copper. You can determine the grade of copper you have by appearance, but also by using a magnet to determine whether you have a ferrous or non-ferrous metal.

Ferrous Metal

Ferrous metal is not worth very much. If a magnet sticks to the metal than you have ferrous metal. This type of metal is usually common such as steel or iron. It will be accepted for scraping and it will be recycled properly, but you will not receive much money for it.

Non-Ferrous Metal

Non-Ferrous metals can be common as well, but they are worth more than ferrous metal. A magnet should not stick to these metals. They are usually copper, aluminum, stainless steel, bronze, and brass. These are valuable and you will get more for recycling them properly.

The Environment and Copper

Computer Recycling

Computer recycling is something that needs to be done carefully. A computer has thousands of little pieces that need to be that can be repurposed or remade into other items. Doing so keeps these pieces out of the landfills and keeps the cycle of reusing items going. A good computer recycling center will be able to remove all the toxic substances within a computer. They will also be able to remove the large amounts of copper that are worked into the motherboards and wires that make up a computer.

A good computer recycling center will remove the components that can be salvaged, including a large amount of copper a computer has. They will also make sure that any data still left on the computer gets removed so no trace amount of personal information gets left on them. This is a growing responsibility for recycling companies everywhere as more computer recycling is needed.

Circuit Board Recycling

Circuit Board Recycling is good for the environment. It is a way to reclaim multiple types of metals and plastics that make up the circuit board, melt them down and re-purpose them into other products and materials. This helps to reduce the impact these materials have on the environment and help reduce the amount of energy that gets spent to reduce these materials back into working forms. Circuit board recycling is particularly needed because of the number of components that go into their manufacturing. Circuit board recycling is a growing need with the number of electronics being released that eventually end up in landfills.

Many of the metals and materials that make up circuit boards are harmful to the environment. They are full of metals that are precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. These metals are easily repurposed into other electronics. The base metals extracted from a circuit board are where you have to be careful. The copper, iron, zinc, tin, nickel, and aluminum need to be separated into their individual components to prevent harmful elements such as barium, beryllium, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from ending up in the environment.

Circuit board recycling occurs when it is reduced back to these original components. These original components can then be used in other products. This reduces the need to mine for more of these metals. Copper mining is particularly harmful to the environment, so many recycling centers will pay almost the same price for recycled ‘A’ grade copper as they would for newly mined copper.


E-cycling is one of the latest ways of managing the large numbers of electronics hitting landfills and disposal markets. Electronic recycling reuses, donates, or redistributes electronics that are no longer wanted to areas that can properly dispose of them or repurpose them. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows for the following items to be e-cycled:

  • Computers
  • CDs
  • DVDs
  • Stereos
  • Mobile Phones
  • Vacuum Cleaners
  • Computer Peripheral
  • Microwave Ovens
  • Televisions

If the items are still functional and in good working conditions, they are often recirculated to organizations that can make sure people who need them can get them. E-cycling facilities have been set up to make sure these items – especially “smart” items – are dissembled correctly and completely for accurate disposal if they are completely unusable. Circuit board recycling and computer recycling are also e-cycling.

Many of the components of all of these products should not be part of the environment. Find correct and safe ways to handle the large amounts of electronics that are no longer wanted or needed is a growing concern all over the world. Landfills across the globe are filling up with electronics that are not being properly disposed of. There are companies that are taking this concern seriously.

About CJD E-Cycling

CJD E-Cycling is there for you when you need your electronics recycled in a safe and environmentally stable way. We are available to take computers and electronics and reduce them into their components to safely recycle all of them. CJD E-Cycling is a family-owned business that services the Metro East/St. Louis area. We follow the laws and regulations for the State of Illinois. 

CJD takes the security and disposal of electronics seriously. We want to make sure your data is disposed of in a way that keeps you secure while being able to purchase your used scrap metal for a price that works for you. Computer and circuit board recycling is serious. We know that you depend on us to take care of personal information and the environment.