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What Happens When Copper Is Recycled?

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Copper has been extracted from the Earth and used for thousands of years. In fact, it is one of the earliest known metals to be used by human beings. These days, it is also one of the most recycled of all metals. Of course, precious metals, such as platinum, silver and gold, are often recycled, as well. However, such metals tend to remain in the same form for many years, especially if they have been shaped to form jewellery that will be handed down through generations. Copper, on the other hand, is often sold as scrap for wires. Therefore, it tends to be reprocessed and repurposed much more than metals that are even ten times or more its value. What happens when you want to earn cash for scrap wires by having your old copper recycled? 

  • More Wiring

To be clear, because copper is such a great conductor of electricity, it is often converted from old stranded wires into new wiring products. This way, cash for wires becomes something of a circular economy. Old wires will be stripped down to remove their plastic sheaths. Then, their strands are melted to deal with any unwanted breaks or kinks. Newly spun wires can subsequently be manufactured. When, in turn, the new wiring reaches the end of its life, more cash for wires can be generated with the whole process starting again. Importantly, this occurs with no degradation to the quality of the new wires that have been made from old copper.

  • Purifying Old Copper

Of course, some copper that is sold for scrap hasn't necessarily been protected with an outer layer of insulation over it as is the case with scrap wires. Copper pots, work surfaces and taps might have all suffered from contamination during their lifespans. Therefore, some copper recycling plants will check the purity level of the metal while it is still molten. This can occur when cash for wires that are old or that have been used in high-corrosion settings, such as factories, are being recycled. If the purity level isn't correct, then a process known as electrolysis, which means applying a direct current to drive a chemical reaction, is used to collect the pure copper on electrodes. This way the quality of any new wiring or other products made from the metal can be maintained.

  • What About New Copper?

Recycling copper is preferable for many reasons. For one thing, you can obtain cash for aluminium and other recyclable metals like copper, so why would you not reprocess it? Secondly, mining aluminium requires great energy consumption which is bad for the environment. Locally, mined copper also means the release of gases like sulphur dioxide, something that recycling helps to do away with.