Copper is of good characteristics. It is easily stretched, molded, and shaped; is resistant to corrosion; conducts heat and electricity easily. Therefore, copper is widely used in construction, power generation and transmission, electronic products manufacturing, and the production of industrial machinery and transportation vehicles. At the same time, as a non-renewable resource, copper is also one of the most widely recycled of all metals; approximately one third of the consumed copper worldwide is recycled.
Copper recycling is very vital for today’s industry and environment. The use of scrap copper is a necessary means to compensate for declining supplies of mined copper. Besides, copper recycling has been a global business, which contributes to keeping local resources balance, creating job opportunities, saving landfill site space and stimulating the recycling of other metals. By recycling copper, our earth and water is also free from being polluted by it. Compared with extracting copper from copper ore, copper recycling only needs 10% of its energy consumption. 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.
As we have mentioned, copper recycling is an important part of the whole supply chain.Then where does the copper scrap come from? There are two kinds of copper scrap: old scrap an new scrap. Old scrap comes from the public. It is collected from discarded, dismantled or obsolete products at the end of their lives. For example, copper wire scrap of each home appliance, ac radiator scrap, old taps from bathroom. New scrap comes from factories which make articles from copper, brass or bronze. Their machines will produce offcuts and shavings that can be collected and returned for recycling.
When copper scrap is received for recycling, it is visually inspected and graded, and analyzed chemically if necessary. Loose scrap is baled by scrap metal baler and stored until needed. Simply speaking, there are # 1 and# 2 copper scrap. NO.1 scrap is made up of clean, unalloyed, and uncoated copper solids, clippings, etc. No.2 copper scrap is the same but may include oxidized or coated pieces including coated copper wire. No.1 scrap material can be directly melted and in some cases brought to higher purity while molten. No.2 scrap may need fire refining first, then melting and casting into anodes. But one kind is an exception, that is coated copper wire scrap. For this copper scrap, one copper granulator or wire stripping machine is enough.
After being recycled, who will be the users of these copper? The biggest obstacle for using recycled copper is impurity. The impurity will greatly affect its properties. As a result, some applications like electric cable requires newly mined or primary copper or scrap which has been refined. Ingot producers and large captive foundries have traditionally been large consumers of used copper/brass automotive radiators. Today, after collected, these copper/aluminum radiator scrap can be separate within seconds by radiator recycling machine. Then, they can be used for red-brass and semi-red brass alloy ingots.
Since copper was put into use, over 700 billion tons of them has been mined and the majority of it is still in use today. It is owed to this fact that copper scrap is easily and economically used and reused. Especially, many new techniques and equipment continuously improve efficiency and the purity of the recycled copper.