Copper is a highly versatile and sought after material that can be recycled over and over again, which helps reduce the pressure on landfill sites. It takes less energy to recycle copper than to produce copper products from raw materials, so it's better for the environment to recycle copper, as recycling produces fewer carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gas emissions. As with all natural resources, there is a finite supply of copper, so recycling helps prevent depletion of copper resources and reduces pressure on manufacturing plants. Here's an overview of products commonly made with copper, how to identify copper and the recycling process.
Common Copper Products
Copper is widely used, but you may not realise how many things in and around your home are made with it. Water pipes, household wiring and doorknobs are often made with copper, as are lighting fixtures, decorative hinges and some ornaments. It's also a great conductor of electricity, so you'll find copper components in personal electronics, washing machines and fridges. Copper is also used to make cookware, such as pans and kettles, and is used as a roofing material. Additionally, if you come across a collection of old coins, some may be made with pure copper.
Copper has a similar appearance to brass, but there are a few ways you can determine if you have pure copper and not an alloy. Firstly, examine the object under a white light to clearly see the colour hues. Copper should not have a yellow tint, but you should be able to identify a reddish-brown hue. You can also rub a little salt and vinegar onto a small area of your object and wait for it to oxidise. The oxidised area will turn green if it's copper, and you can simply wipe it clean with a damp cloth afterwards. Copper is not magnetic, so holding a magnet to your object is another good indicator of whether it's made with pure copper.
The Recycling Process
The recycling process for copper is relatively straightforward. When copper reaches a recycling plant it is sorted, cleaned and shredded before being melted down. The heat during the melting process will remove impurities, such as coatings or inks, and the molten copper is then poured into castings and allowed to solidify. The castings tend to be in the form of blocks, but this is an intermediary state for the copper, as once solidified, the blocks will be transported to a mill and rolled into flat sheets. The sheets are then ready to be used and can be manufactured into new copper products.
Copper is an invaluable material and the demand for old copper is growing. So, if you find yourself with old copper fixtures or fittings after carrying out a home remodel or clearing out a shed, take it to your local recycling centre. You can earn a little cash for copper recycling and help the environment at the same time.