Europe’s Demand for Copper is increasingly met by Recycling

According to the International Copper Study Group (ICSG), about 50% of the copper used in Europe comes from recycling. This reveals that copper requirements are increasingly being met by recycling. This win-win situation is helping to supply the ever-increasing demand for the metal (+250% since the 1960s) while, at the same time, lessening the environmental impact of its production and ensuring its availability for generations to come.

A computer contains around 1.5 kg of copper, a typical home about 100 kg and a wind turbine 5 tonnes. Considering copper is infinitely recyclable and can be reused again and again, without any loss of properties, there is every incentive to ensure products and copper waste are correctly processed when they reach the end of their useful lives. After all, the copper from a smartphone could end up as part of the water system in a home!

Recycling has become an important part of the supply chain, keeping resources local, creating local jobs, saving on landfill and incentivising the recycling of other materials.

In 2011, 2.1 million tonnes of copper were reused – a rise of 12% in one year, coming from end-of-life products and directly-recycled factory waste (direct melt). This increased recycling of copper is being driven by the growth in use of the metal across the planet.

Copper is omnipresent in the equipment modern life depends upon more and more, namely high-tech products, electrical installations, engines, solar systems and smart buildings. Read more in the Applications section.

Since the mid-1960s, global demand for refined copper has increased by over 250% (from 5 million to 18 million tonnes). Mine production remains vital in order to meet this growing demand. Ensuring that sufficient copper will be available to meet society’s future needs will require increased levels of recovery and recycling, as well as substantial investments in mining.

Copper: the Recycling Champion

Recycling Saves Energy and CO2

Recycling copper is a very efficient way of reintroducing a valuable material back into the economy. It requires up to 85% less energy than primary production. Around the world, it saves 100 million MWh of electrical energy and 40 million tonnes of CO2 annually.


Brass is said to be non-magnetic, but a sample reacts to a magnet. Why?

Probably due to the high iron content from recycled scrap. If a non-magnetic copper alloy is required use a nickel aluminium bronze to Def Stan Specifications (were NES).

I am using CW614N (CZ121) to make machined components for a major motor manufacturer. The process results in about 3 tonnes per week of brass swarf which is contaminated with machining oil. Could this still be recycled?

Yes, brass swarf is very valuable and should be recycled. The brass industry relies on recycling for its survival; they will be able to clean the oil from the swarf before remelting it.

When a car is scrapped, can the copper be recovered?

Yes, copper is easily separated from other materials such as steel and plastic. It is recovered, remelted and reused.

When removing old copper pipework, or an old copper cylinder, can they be recycled?

Yes. Copper is infinitely recyclable.

The ICSG is an intergovernmental organization of copper producing and using countries that serves to increase copper market transparency and promote international discussions and cooperation on issues related to copper.

A comprehensive study of the stocks, flows and recycling rates for copper has been developed by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany. This complex, three-year study, has resulted in a much improved understanding of how copper is used and re-used by society.