The Environmental Importance of Copper Recycling
Copper is an essential trace element which is necessary for the plant and animal health. Moderate excess exposure to copper is not associated with health risks.
As with other metals, there are significant environmental benefits to the recycling of copper. These include solid waste diversion, reduced energy requirements for processing, and natural resource conservation. For example, the energy requirements of recycled copper are as much as 85 to 90 percent less than the processing of new copper from virgin ore. In terms of conservation, copper is a non-renewable resource, although only 12 percent of known reserves have been consumed. Known U.S. reserves of copper are thought to total 1.6 billion metric tons, with production concentrated in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and Montana.
About 99 percent of domestic production is generated from 20 mines.
An emerging environmental challenge for copper is its use in the ever-increasing production of electrical products that still experience low recycling rates. This trend is changing for the better, however, through electronics recycling initiatives.