Copper is highly durable and pliable, and is also valued for its resistance to corrosion. It is relatively easy to recover as it is used primarily as the metal. Copper scrap is used by both primary and secondary producers, where processing methods include blast furnace, reverberatory furnace or electric arc furnace. In the latter, around 75-80 per cent raw material is scrap copper. Recent historical trends in demand per capita for copper are influenced by factors such as:

  • disinvestment in electrically powered rail and public transportation systems
  • increase in the copper content of motor vehicles with the addition of more electrically powered auxiliary systems
  • deindustrialisation
  • increases in efficiency of use and substitution by other materials e.g. plastics

Recycling rates of scrap appear to be low as much of the inventory of copper metal is tied up in infrastructure. Thus replacement of copper water pipes with plastic would free up large quantities of copper for other uses. In the telecommunications industry wiring has most often been made from copper as it is a good conductor of electricity, with occasional use of other conductive materials notably aluminium. Broadband connections (or at least delivery into homes or businesses) is commonly over copper wires, although fibre optics or wireless connections are replacing these parts of a network. the recovery of copper is on occasion less straightforward e.g. where copper components have to be separated out from printed wiring boards.