Recycling of Copper – How It’s Done

Copper (Cu) is both a mineral and an element present in our everyday lives. It’s everywhere, from your kitchen sink to benchtops to jewelry. A large car can have more than 45kg of copper. This material is valued for its excellence as a heat and electricity conductor. It’s malleable, ductile, and corrosion-resistant, as well.

These qualities are among the reasons why copper is one of the most used metals in the world, along with aluminium and iron. That’s why copper recycling is essential and valuable.

Copper is believed to have been first used from 8,000 to 5,000 BC. During this era, copper was an alternative to stone. Egyptians soon started heating and shaping the metal in 4,000 BC. Soon, technology improved, and smelting ores began in the Bronze Age. More advancements took place. Once known as the metal of Cyprus (or simply Cyprus), the metal eventually became cup rum (or copper in English).

Copper wire recycling allows us to save energy, help the environment, and protect natural resources. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy. The recycling process can be complex but is generally made up of the following steps:

1. Stripping

The first step is to strip the copper wire from its protective shielding, often in the form of plastic insulation. Since copper has high conductivity, it’s coated to protect cables and other items from this metal. For copper wire recycling, you need to remove this protective coating to begin the process.

Cut through the shielding before removing the wire from the insulation material. To finish this step faster, you can use wire stripping tools, such as an automatic wire stripper. If you only have a few copper wires, you can simply use a pair of scissors or a wire stripper. Make sure you remove all nuts, bolts, and nails before stripping.

2. Sorting

Once insulation and attachments are removed, it’s time to sort the copper wires. They will be treated according to their grades. The higher graded copper wires will typically be melted and recast without other treatments. Meanwhile, those with lower grades may require further processing, such as removing their impurities.

3. Quality Checking

The metal will then be sent to a recycling facility for a trained eye to inspect the quality of the wires. This additional step is to ensure that there are no contaminants before the wires are melted. In some cases, a granulator may be used, which will:

  • Shred the metal
  • Separate intertwined wires and thick cables
  • Cut the copper wire into bits

A crusher may be used for cutting the wires into manageable sizes. It ensures that there are no unwanted materials when it’s time for melting them.

4. Melting

Once ensured that the materials are ready, copper wire recycling will continue with the melting process. The metal will be loaded into a furnace where it’s melted at 1084C and cast into a particular shape. It will then be left to cool. Once ready, it will be transformed into rods, wires, or sheets before sending the recycled metal into a plant for further manufacturing.

As you can see, copper has a very high melting point. That heat is intense, and therefore you should never attempt to do it on your own. Leave the job to the pros. We recommend that you only perform the first step mentioned above, in which you collect and strip the copper wires. After that, you can take the wires to a recycling facility, such as Collins Recycling.