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Copper recycling key to tackling China’s resource gap

Copper is highly valued by the international production industry. At present, 30% of global copper supply comes from recycled copper. With the increasing demand for copper in China, the recycled copper industry will undergo considerable development and attract significant investment in the future.

Copper is not only 100% recyclable but also there are no losses and impacts on the quality/performance of copper after reprocessing and production. In the process of copper recovery and processing, its energy efficiency is also very high (80-90% lower than the energy consumption in the original mining and processing).

The global copper recovery rate is around 60% and, as mentioned above, some 30% of copper supply comes from recycling. It is estimated that two-thirds of the 550 million tonnes of copper produced after 1900 are still in use. These huge quantities of copper-containing products exist in various forms of end use and are equivalent to 20 years of copper production.

China is the largest consumer of copper but is also a copper-poor country where the supply situation is very serious. Owing to China’s large population, annual per-capita consumption of copper is quite different from that of developed countries at only around 3kg but China’s copper resources are still seriously insufficient. In order to bridge the potential market demand, recycling is one of the important ways to tackle this shortage of copper resources.

During China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016 to 2020), its copper usage in electrical and electronic products, cars, construction and other fields entered the peak period for scrap. In 2020, domestic copper scrap amounted to around 2.8 million tonnes. By 2050, China’s per-capita copper consumption will reach a historical peak and copper produced from recycling will meet all the demand.

The recycled copper industry is paying great attention to resource recycling and sustainable development. While bringing considerable benefits, it is also very consistent with the policy guidance of actively developing resource recycling and building an ecological and healthy social and economic development model in China. Investment in the renewable copper industry can achieve multiple economic, social and environmental benefits, resulting in many investment institutions being optimistic about renewable copper over recent years.