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Why Is Recycling Copper Better Than Extracting It?


Copper, because of its beauty, versatility, and durability, has been used for thousands of years in many different ways. This metal maintains its beauty and conductivity and has a higher recycling rate than all other metals. Recyclers have been able to achieve a 99.9% purity rating for copper, virtually removing any differences between newly mined and recycled copper are negligible. The principal reasons for using recycled copper is preferred fall into two categories: economics and environmental sustainability.

Cost of Mining New Copper

Demand for copper in any form has remained high following the recession of 2009.  Prices for copper have fallen in the past five years, however, because of the substantial drop in petroleum prices and the mining industry’s need to reduce the price differential with between new and recycled supplies. Copper miners have struggled to “squeeze out” some input costs in recent years to remain profitable. Mining new copper is still more expensive than recycling. The market for recycled copper tends to stay at about 95% of the landed costs of newly mined and refined copper, according to SDI LaFarga. Also, according to a Business of Mining website commentary from April 2012,  over 30% of copper wiring consists of recycled material. This “urban” mining has substantially begun to replace conventional mining as a source. Also, as the “easy-to-access” raw materials are tapping out, mining companies must work harder and pay more to extract copper ore from more challenging locations. Even though this information suggests that conventional copper mining will continue to take a lesser role in copper production about recycling, some mining will continue even while recycled copper takes on the primary role in future production.

Copper Sustainability

Hauling copper to the landfill instead of recycling is not very different from dumping gold or silver. Yes, copper market prices are not exactly in the precious metal category, but there is a premium value for this metal. Because of its high conductivity properties, copper has been in demand for electrical wiring and motors for over a century. Copper is also useful for plumbing hardware and piping. Additionally, copper is a beautiful metal used for many types of ornate decorations. Copper mining uses high levels of energy, mostly petroleum-based, and gives off harmful emissions into the atmosphere. Also, the supply is finite, and the cost and damage done by continued mining will be irreparable in the future. Decades after the mines have closed, the scarring of the topography and pollution of nearby waterways remain a long-term environmental problem for some U.S. communities. Given the high demand for clean, reusable copper, most discarded wiring and motors are stripped and sent to the smelters to be used again in new products. This process helps to preserve the planet's energy while protecting a piece of the environment for future generations. Moreover, very notably, recycling copper uses only about 10% to 15% of the energy used to mine new material.

Mid-Atlantic Waste Systems Can Help You Choose the Right Copper Recycling Equipment

If you have a regular supply or discarded copper wiring and other copper materials, Mid-Atlantic Waste has state-of-the-art equipment to remove the coatings and housings to separate valuable copper for recycling. Industrial recycling equipment such as strippers and granulators can extract the copper from the plastic or other insulating material for all kinds of wires and cables. Electric motor recyclers cut through iron or other heavy metal housings. Talk with a Mid-Atlantic Waste expert today about equipment to separate your supply of copper materials for reuse. Recycling copper can be a profitable opportunity with the right sources and equipment!