Many different types of metals can be recycled in B.C., with copper being among the most popular. Major recycling centres like Kelowna Recycling recycle copper because the metal is used in many industrial applications (e.g., wire, plumbing, electronics), and the value of the metal makes recovery worthwhile.
Benefits of copper recycling
There is a positive environmental impact whenever a material can be diverted from a landfill and reused. Copper is a metal mined by crushing hard rock ore and separating the metal from the rock through a process called smelting. This process requires huge amounts of energy for the heavy equipment and a large amount of water and produces toxic waste byproducts. Recycled copper can help reduce the number of active mines, environmental devastation, and decrease CO2 emissions from long-distance transport of both raw and refined copper.
Drawbacks of recycling copper
Despite the numerous benefits of recycling copper, the process of recovering copper can be expensive and energy intensive. Some sources of copper can also be unreliable, with various alloys and added metals in the mix. Separating the different metals is required for copper to retain its conductive properties.
How is copper recycled?
Copper is most often recycled by melting it down and turning it into smaller copper pellets that can then be smelted and formed into new materials. Copper wire coated in plastic insulation is recycled by cutting it into smaller bits and removing the plastic through an electromagnetic process. Once the plastic is separated, the remaining metal is melted and reformed for its new purpose.
What copper can be recycled?
- #1 copper wire or bare bright copper wire (solid, clean copper wire with casings removed)
- #1 copper tubing or flashing (clean copper tubing from plumbing fixtures and radiators)
- #2 copper tubing or flashing (copper tubing from plumbing and heating/cooling that contain paint, tin solder, or brass fittings)
- #3 copper or roofing copper (copper from roofing projects that contain large amounts of tar and paint)
- Insulated copper wire and cable (electrical wire with plastic sheathing)