Copper Cable and the Changing Recycling Environment

What is a copper cable? 

Copper cables are essentially just a collection of many individual copper wires. These wires are carefully grouped together inside an insulating sheath made up of various kinds of plastics, nylon, PVC and other materials. Copper cables are one of the most widespread and common forms of wiring used in electrical circuitry and ever since their invention nearly 200 years ago, they have played an invaluable role in telecommunications, power generation, power transmission, thermal appliances and almost every form of equipment that relies on electricity. 

Though they are a vital and an easily overlooked part of our daily lives, all cables do end up breaking down and will eventually need to be replaced with new ones.

What happens to scrap copper cables?  

Around 50% of all the copper mined from the planet, goes into the construction of copper cables and electrical wiring. And since the kind of copper used in electrical cables is often of very high quality and in one of the purest forms, scrap copper cables are one of the worlds most recycled products. Recycling these copper cables for scrap metal, alloys and other components has given rise to a very lucrative market due to the decreasing availability of easily available copper ore sources and improving recycling technologies.  

Moreover, recycling scrap copper cables can also greatly reduce the negative impact that copper mining leaves on the planet. And being as valuable and easily recyclable as copper is, scrap copper cables should never be thrown into landfills or carelessly incinerated without extracting the scrap metal beforehand.

How are scrap copper cables recycled? 

Generally, scrap copper cables are recycled by the same set of processes with few differences in between. For very large or high recovery cables, often simply stripping the plastic off the cable using a knife is the easiest way to recover the copper. Generally, however, most recycling facilities start with size reduction using shredders, granulators and/or mills. 

Following size reduction, the resulting product can be sorted using various forms of gravity, air, water and electromagnetic separation, and other processes, to ensure almost 100% of the copper is extracted from input scrap copper cables.  

So where do these scrap copper cables end up? 

In recent years, recycling has gained popularity among the general public and even governing bodies have taken steps to enforce various recycling measures as public policy. This is happening especially in light of the recent events where China, one of the largest importers of global waste, decided to enforce a complete ban on various solid waste articles and nearly all plastic contaminated waste.  

In early 2018, ever since the Chinese government decided to clean up its own land, air and water by refusing to accept contaminated solid waste, the amount of scrap copper containing waste being imported by China dipped by 40% as of June 2018, when compared to the same imports from the previous year. And since China used to import around 70% of all the global scrap copper containing waste, many tons of scrap copper cables are now needing to be processed in country or find new outlets. 

As a direct consequence of this action, those who create such waste, mainly the developed nations of the world, have been forced to export their excess waste to other Asian countries. But since none of these smaller nations have the capacity to process the solid waste to an extent that China can, this measure is only a temporary solution and sooner or later the world will have to deal with the problem at its source.  

How can we win this fight against accumulating waste? 

Reduce, reuse, and recycle. As far as recycling goes, due to the initial Chinese ban on plastic imports and subsequent ban on all waste with less than 99.5% purity, of late, a large number of recycling facilities have undertaken the duty of recycling solid waste like scrap PVC and copper cables. ReSourc being one of such recycling companies, efficiently recycles the precious metal from cable scraps and puts it back into the production cycle, positively impacting the environment, the manufactures and us: the consumers.  

To get the best return for your scrap copper cables, please contact ReSourc for pricing.