As one of a series of reports that describe the recycling of metal commodities in the United States, this report discusses the flow of copper from production through distribution and use, with particular emphasis on the recycling of industrial scrap (new scrap1) and used products (old scrap) in the year 2004. This materials flow study includes a description of copper supply and demand for the United States to illustrate the extent of copper recycling and to identify recycling trends. Understanding how materials flow from a source through disposition can aid in improving the management of natural resource delivery systems.
In 2004, the U.S. refined copper supply was 2.53 million metric tons (Mt) of refined unalloyed copper. With adjustment for refined copper exports of 127,000 metric tons (t) of copper, the net U.S. refined copper supply was 2.14 Mt of copper. With this net supply and a consumer inventory decrease of 9,000 t of refined copper, 2.42 Mt of refined copper was consumed by U.S. semifabricators (brass mills, wire rod mills, ingot makers, and foundries and others) in 2004. In addition to the 2.42 Mt of refined copper consumed in 2004, U.S. copper semifabricators consumed 853,000 t of copper contained in recycled scrap. Furthermore, 61,000 t of copper contained in scrap was consumed by noncopper alloy makers, for example, steelmakers and aluminum alloy makers.
Old scrap recycling efficiency for copper was estimated to be 43 percent of theoretical old scrap supply, the recycling rate for copper was 30 percent of apparent supply, and the new-scrap-to-old-scrap ratio for U.S. copper product production was 3.2 (76:24).