Is copper sustainable?
Yes! In today’s fast moving, globalised world, the need for products and materials to multitask has never been more important. Improving living standards and the increase of one-person households drives demand and necessity for greener, more sustainable homes, housing and heating.
Copper is a key component in modern living in the way we heat our homes, transport our water, generate energy, power our technology, transport and provide hospital care. Its diverse credentials and sustainable properties make it the material of choice, especially so in construction and plumbing.
The US Geological Survey recently conducted research into the world’s copper resources and discovered there are approximately 5.6 billion metric tonnes in circulation, a figure more than sufficient to surpass both current and future demand.
To date at least 65% of all copper mined remains in circulation, or available for use. Because of copper’s unique ability to be recycled over and over without any loss in performance or properties, around half of Europe’s copper demand is currently being met by recycled materials and approximately 30 per cent of demand globally, drastically reducing the need for mining.
As recycling techniques improve, this figure will continue to increase and the need to mine will continue to decline. What is more, the recycling of copper uses 85% less energy than mining raw material.
Trades such as construction and plumbing are known for having a strong circular economy when it comes to the use and re-use of copper pipes. The metal from old or redundant pipework is recovered before being melted and cast into new products ready for installation to start the cycle once more.
Copper is ready for a future where people need to get more from fewer, more ethically and sustainably sourced resources, making our homes and way of living more environmentally friendly.
What makes copper recycling better than alternative materials?
Retention of properties means retention of value
Copper used once will be identical to that used 1,000 or 1,000,000 times. Its properties and quality do not deteriorate with use, a trait which allows copper to retain its value. That’s the reason why you don’t tend to see scrap copper on a skip.
A single material that remains undiluted
Copper is copper. Unlike other materials such as plastics, copper and copper alloys have standard components which do not vary between manufacturers, so when you buy copper you know exactly what you’re getting. This also means they can be returned to their constituent elements once they have fulfilled their purpose.
A fully developed scrap collecting infrastructure already exists
And it has existed for centuries. Thanks to the retention of properties and value, copper has an elaborate scrap collecting infrastructure in place to retrieve the material once used to ensure it can be made into new materials.
The recycling technology exists
Copper has been recycled and re-used for as long as the material itself has been in use, thanks to its value and structural resilience. While plastics manufacturers are still figuring out how to dismantle and re-use their components, copper used in tube has likely been used before and will certainly be used again.