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Recycling Copper: Everything You Need to Know

The use of copper in industrial and commercial applications spans many centuries. Qualities such as high yield strength, corrosion resistance, excellent machinability, and good heat conductivity make copper a highly valuable metal for many industries. If your facility handles large amounts of copper, then recycling surplus copper products is a smart metal disposal strategy.
Read on to learn more about copper recycling and ways to get more value from selling your scrap.

Grading Scrap Copper

Scrap dealers categorize scrap copper into different grades. The three main grades include bare bright, number one, and number two copper.
Bare Bright Copper
Bare bright copper is the highest grade of scrap copper and draws the most amount of money. This type of copper comprises bare copper wires or cables that do not contain any metal alloy or paint coats.
Bare bright copper is typically stripped of the insulating material and does not contain visible impurities such as paint, oil, oxidation, and other such blemishes.
Number One Copper
Number one scrap copper comprises electrical bus bars, copper tubes, and copper pipes. This type of copper is equally profitable. Like bare bright copper, number one copper should not contain alloys or visible tarnishes.
Generally, dealers will accept number one copper with slight oxidation and corrosion. However, the wires and cables need to be clean and have the insulation and fittings stripped off.
Number Two Copper
Number two copper is generally more tarnished. This grade of scrap copper includes solid copper metals as well as pipes and wires that do not contain any alloy.
A dealer can accept number two copper that contains blemishes such as paint, slight oxidation, and fittings - once again, the copper must be free of insulation.
Understanding the different grades of copper can help you prepare your scrap metal for recycling. For example, mixing bare bright wires with number two copper can diminish the value of your copper.

Recycling Scrap Copper

The process of recycling copper uses an average of 85% less energy than producing virgin copper from ore. Therefore, recycling copper is cost effective and can reduce your facility's carbon footprint.
The grade of copper influences the recycling process. Recycling top grade scrap copper is a fairly simple process. The recycler will melt, cast, and analyze the copper so that it can be sold to end-users such as manufacturing plants and fabricators.
Recycling alloyed copper may require an additional step. Alloyed scrap copper would need to be melted, remelted, and refined to eliminate impurities. This type of copper is used as raw material for the production of alloys.
Re-melting may not be enough to remove the impurities in highly contaminated scrap copper. Recyclers often employ advanced methods to extract useful quantities of copper from the feedstock.

Improving the Value of Scrap Copper

To improve the value of the scrap copper from your facility, start by placing different metal types in separate containers. For example, store stainless steel in a separate container from copper.
In addition, you should separate wires and cables from tubing, piping, clippings, bus bars, and other solid metals to get the most from copper scrap. Clean your metal parts and strip insulation from wires and cables.
Consider integrating metal sorting and cleaning into your production process. This can reduce the cleaning and sorting costs your recycler may have to subtract from each pound of scrap metal you deliver.
The copper market is resilient and continues to offer good returns, which can be beneficial to manufacturing plants disposing of their scrap metal.
If you are looking for a reputable scrap metal recycling company in San Antonio, look to the experts at Monterrey Iron & Metal Recycling. We can help you safely dispose of your copper metal surplus and implement an effective recycling strategy.