Recycling copper considerations, can more be done in the cable industry to protect the future supply?

Learn about the key processes undertaken to ensure copper materials from cable products are recycled sustainably, to support your businesses environmental impact. Read on to discover the regulations surrounding copper recycling and considerations for environmental product declarations, EPD, and the future to optimise waste management as a critical part of the supply chain.

Recycling copper cable product is an effective way to reduce waste and make a positive impact on the environment. Undertaking recycling is a key part of the production process for manufactures and is increasingly growing in importance as part of sustainability initiatives, set by governments around the world. Copper is a valuable material and several businesses have developed an enterprise around reselling copper product providing a further cost benefit.

Copper recycling considerations

Due to its high electrical conductivity approximately 65% of copper product is used for electrical applications, making it a primary material used in cabling systems within applications such as power generation and transmission, electrical installations and smart buildings, as well as a wide variety of electrical equipment. Since the mid-1960s, global demand for refined copper has increased by over 250%, increasing from 5 million to approximately 20 million tons. Mine production remains vital to meet this growing demand. Ensuring that enough copper will be available to meet society’s future needs will require increased levels of recovery and recycling by all involved throughout the supply chain.


Recycling process

There are three key points to consider with regards to recycling copper cable with the use of simple tools as detailed below:

  • Any external tubing or wire from the copper should be stripped to ensure the material is in a more reusable state before recycling. Typically copper wires are found inside insulated electrical cable. With the careful use of a knife or a blade, the insulation can be scraped away from around the wires.
  • The copper should be in a clean state. You can do this easily by pouring some vinegar, flour and salt over it and rubbing it with a cloth. The better condition that the copper is in, the greater valuable it will hold.
  • Use copper recycling machines such as an industrial wire stripping machine and copper granulator. If you plan to recycle scrap copper on an industrial scale, the use of a professional tool will be necessary to condense the process.

It is vital that waste of electrical and electronic equipment, WEEE is kept separately from other waste to ensure any hazardous substances can be removed.

Sustainable solutions

Copper recycling and waste management have become an important part of the supply chain, keeping resources local, creating local jobs, saving on landfill site space and incentivising the recycling of other materials. In 2014, 2.1 million tons of copper were reused in Europe, coming from end-of-life products and directly-recycled factory waste. This increased recycling of copper is being driven by the growth in use of the metal across the planet and by demand for world class European companies’ pioneering technologies allowing for increased efficiency in refining secondary, low grade, scrap and in processing for direct melt high purity copper scrap.


The importance of recycling is highlighted within environmental product declarations, EPDs, which communicate the environmental performance or impact of any product or material over time. In relation to the construction sector, EPDs emphasise the importance of carbon emission reduction by providing a comparison of the impacts of different materials and product types to determine the most sustainable options to use within projects. Product certification schemes and standards such as BS EN 15804 focus on the sustainability of construction in relation to EDPs for construction products and services. An EPD is a transparent, objective report that communicates what a product is made of and how it impacts the environment across its entire life cycle. A verified EPD can satisfy the requirements of the international standards, including ISO 14044, ISO 14025, and ISO 21930.

Recycling also has important energy saving benefits, for instance the process of extracting copper from copper ore uses approximately ten times the amount of energy as opposed to recycling copper products. This vital energy saving helps contribute to supporting valuable reserves of other energy sources such as oil and gas, in addition to reducing levels of CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere.

Another approach to minimising waste is to implement sustainable product design practises. For instance, by creating cable products to demonstrate greater resilience in their end applications and last longer periods of time before replacement is required, in addition to using less hazardous materials, a more robust and environmentally friendly product is achieved. This in turn means that the cabling should be fit for purpose to operate efficiently and support a more sustainable future.

Key points

Recycling copper cable products has several benefits that make a positive impact on the environment and helps protect the future supply of the material. An increased focus on levels of recycling going forward is required by all in the cable industry to protect this crucial part of the supply chain. The importance of recycling is emphasised in environmental product declarations, EPD, whereby specific product certification schemes detail the importance of sustainable construction of products. BASEC makes a conscious effort to recycle cable materials including copper where possible. To find out more please contact your local dedicated customer support team.