Copper is infinitely recyclable without any loss of performance and is almost indistinguishable from freshly-mined copper.
Copper has the longest recycling history of any material known to civilisation. It is estimated that 80% of all copper mined over the last 10,000 years is still in use somewhere today. Estimates also reveal that 33% of today’s global annual copper demand is supplied by recycled copper.
Copper is vital for human, animal and plant health; an essential part of the human diet.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that worldwide, people are at a greater risk of adverse health effects due to copper deficiency than from excess copper.
It is estimated that two-thirds of the 550 million tonnes of copper produced since 1900 are still in productive use (Glöser, 2013). Of this amount:
Approximately 70% is used for electrical applications and 30% for non-electrical applications.
Around 45% is used for power generation and transmission, 20% for construction, 12.5% for domestic appliances and electronics, 12.5% for transport and 10% for other applications.
For more information about copper stocks and flows, keep reading about copper recycling and long-term availability.
WE CARE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Recycling copper is a highly eco-efficient way of reintroducing a valuable material into the economy. Nine million tonnes of copper are recycled each year. Recycling copper requires up to 85% less energy than primary production. Globally, this saves 40 million tonnes of CO2 annually, which is the equivalent of taking 16 million vehicles off the road.
It is estimated that two-thirds of the 550 million tonnes of copper mined since 1900 are still in productive use. For recycling to be effective, innovation is needed. Efforts supporting recycling can be implemented in new product designs to facilitate end-of-life recovery and industrial recycling processes, to increase overall yields. Regulatory policies must also continue to promote recovery and recycling, both at an industrial level and by individual citizens.
The vast majority (70%) of copper is used for end-use applications, as it is the most efficient non-precious conductor of heat and electricity. This means that items containing copper tend to operate more efficiently. Using copper in electrical systems can offer a lifetime saving of between 100 – 7,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions and save users $25,000 – $2.5 million in reduced energy bills.
Copper’s energy efficiency is due to its superior electrical and thermal conductivity. Copper is the most efficient conductor of heat and electricity, which is why items containing copper tend to work more efficiently. The vast majority (70%) of copper is used for end-use applications, which benefit from it high level of efficiency.
Its energy efficiency contributes to sustainable development and economic growth. Many of the daily necessities that define our modern quality of life require an energy source, which means that energy supply and security is fundamental for long-term sustainable development.