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Industrial Supply

There is still a lot of room for improvement in copper recycling

Copper is one of the industry’s most important raw materials. A German-Chinese research team has taken a closer look at the copper flows in China.

07 Jul. 2018
HMI-ID06-034t
There is still a lot of room for improvement in copper recycling (Photo: Deutsche Messe AG)

Copper is installed in almost all electronic devices. Electric vehicles are now being added to that, so demand will continue to increase greatly, by a factor of nine according to estimates . The stock market price has already doubled in recent years due to the increasing shortage. Chile continues to be the largest producing country, followed by China and Peru. China’s production, in particular, has recently picked up significantly and should be considered in a more differentiated manner, as a new study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI shows. A team of researchers from Clausthal University of Technology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Nanjing Forestry University led by Fraunhofer ISI has used a new model to show copper flows in detail and identify the biggest driving force of demand. The scientific report is published in the Journal of Cleaner Production .

The balancing material flow analysis 1990 - 2015 shows that the per capita copper stock for China rose from around 7 kg to nearly 60 kg. The demand in China comes mainly from the construction sector, electrical/electronics and service sectors such as healthcare. Copper imports reached a volume of almost 10 million tons in the reporting period. Of these, around 1.4 million tons are scrap, while exports are mostly intermediate goods and products. The EOL recycling rate is currently around 55%, but would need to be further increased if China wants to meet its needs. As a comparison, the end-of-life recycling rate in the EU in 2014 was around 65%.

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