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Is copper eco-friendly?

Copper, a metal discovered around 11,000 years ago, has played a key role in the development of our civilisation. Today, we probably have the most important task in the history – to save a man using eco-friendly copper in order to achieve a sustainable future. How does copper contribute to the protection of our Mother Earth? How is it used to build a sustainable future?

Copper is an excellent electrical and heat conductor.

Copper is characterised by its efficiency in terms of energy and thermal conductivity. Owing to the fact that it is extremely durable, it is being used more and more in industry, construction and transport. This is the main “link” of the energy transition, the main material for constructing efficient infrastructure (starting from cables and wires, through motors and transformers, and ending up with energy storage systems), including various types of renewable energy installations.

Copper improves efficiency of energy, heating and cooling infrastructure.

It contributes to the improvement of the energy infrastructure. Thanks to it, the CO2 emissions are reduced by millions of tonnes annually, which means that copper has a very positive impact on the environment. In addition, copper is very malleable and easy to work with, and therefore it is a perfect solution for creating complex components such as photovoltaic cells, transformers and inverters or grounding.  The fact that copper is moisture-resistant allows for renewable energy systems to be installed in unfavourable weather conditions, for instance, offshore wind turbines.

Additionally, copper contributes to the development of electromobility. Thanks to it, an increasing number of drivers may use fast charging stations for their electric vehicles.

It is also worth mentioning that energy-efficient construction is relying more and more on copper to maximise the cost-effectiveness of energy transfer and heat recovery. Copper plays one of the key roles in HVAC installations: 

  • reduces the size and weight of the HVAC installation (smaller pipe diameter),
  • allows for using eco-friendly and safe refrigerants,
  • increases the efficiency of heat exchangers and heat pumps (thanks to it, new generations of the aforesaid devices are created).

In the construction and energy industry, copper is cost-effective as it reduces both financial and environmental costs. At Electris, while producing copper components, we use various traditional methods of copper processing (for instance, turning, milling, soldering, bending, punching, cutting, grinding) and CNC technology, which allows for fast and low-cost, but also precise low- and high-volume production.

Copper is characterised by its durability and high resistance to various factors.

It is estimated that a copper component may last even several hundred years as copper does not rust and does not require maintenance. This metal is resistant to many adverse factors (low and high temperatures, effect of chemicals, high pressure).

There are more than a hundred of copper’s applications in green building:

  • hydraulics and lighting,
  • energy-saving installations,
  • roof covering and furnishings.

Copper protects a man’s health

Copper and its alloys are antimicrobial – copper surface kills greater than 99.9% of bacteria within just two hours.

The use of copper, for instance in sanitary and HVAC installations, translates into the prevention of the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms – e.g., legionella in drinking water systems or mould and fungi in air conditioning. Copper surfaces – home fittings and furnishing in public facilities reduce the risk of growth of pathogenic micro-organisms and prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Copper is 100 % recyclable, processed indefinitely and without any loss of quality.

Copper can be recycled repeatedly without any loss in its properties or quality – it is estimated that 80% of the copper is still being used or can be recycled, and that nearly half of Europe’s copper demand is met thanks to the secondary raw material. Copper recycling consumes 20% of the energy in relation to that used in mining and processing, and this reduces CO2 emissions.

Copper is recovered during factory production (remelting of cutting waste), but also from worn-out elements of installations and electronic devices.

Closed cycle process for recycling copper – a material of the future.

A computer contains around 1.5 kg of copper, a typical home about 100 kg and a wind turbine as much as a few tonnes. Replacement of a system at home, building demolition, waste electronic equipment, worn-out cables and wires – recycling copper can give it a second life.

Millberry copper, white copper and others, i.e., recycled copper

The most desirable type of copper for recycling is the so-called Millberry copper. How does it look like? It has a bright metallic luster with no patina layer and any signs of oxidation. Usually, it is obtained, for instance, from copper cables, wires or wire coils. First of all, it must not be insulated. It must be varnish-free, grease-free or oil-free and must not be contaminated with iron or other non-ferrous metals.

The following sources of copper are also highly appreciated:

  • pure copper lump, usually at least 1-2 mm thick (that usually comes from heating installations) or is in the form of copper flat bars and sheets, as well as copper tubes;
  • copper chips, which come, for instance, from the mechanical processing of copper, open-work copper and copper winding wire, which takes the form of windings, wires or cables;
  • white copper, which usually consists of approx. 98% pure copper and 2% additives such as tin, aluminium, brass or silver; white copper is often silver plated – instead of the standard reddish colour, it is then white or silvery and, in this form, it is used in wire coils, pipes and parts of electrical installations;
  • bronze components, an alloy of copper and tin, aluminium, silicon, lead or other, which makes up 2% of the material content; bronze takes the form of screws, springs, pipes, hoses, shafts, sleeves, bearings and machine parts;
  • brass components, an alloy of copper and zinc that may consist of up to 40% zinc and is used for fittings, machine parts, screws, nuts, bolts, handles, railings, padlocks and decorations.

Eco-friendly copper in a day-to-day business of Electris

At Electris we have produced millions of copper components that are part of some of the largest projects around the world. In addition, we are constantly developing and looking for new solutions. We pay particular attention to the development of copper components for the renewable energy sector, such as photovoltaic and solar systems, wind power and cooling.

We manufacture copper components for various industries – starting from energy production, through transport and construction and ending up with mining and heavy industry. We are aware of many advantages of copper and we know how many components can be made using this metal.

Owing to the fact that sustainability and environmental protection are of key importance in our business, we are proud that the main raw material used in our production is eco-friendly and fully recyclable. All production waste and unused copper is transferred to the copper smelting plants to be remelted and reused for future purposes.

 

Summary:

What is copper eco-friendly?

Copper fulfils the most relevant criteria to be an eco-friendly material – it is very durable and it is a great conductor of electricity and heat, which increases the efficiency of the installation. In addition, it can be recycled repeatedly – 100% and without any loss of quality.

How does copper reduce CO2 emissions?

Copper provides efficiency and cost-effectiveness of energy installation, and this reduces the carbon footprint, similarly to the manufacture of copper components and their possibility of recovery and recycling.

How is copper used in sustainable construction?

It is estimated that copper can be used in more than a hundred ways in green building – it mainly improves the efficiency and ensures cost-effectiveness of electrical, sanitary, heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

What is white copper?

White copper consists of about 2% other additives, for instance silver. It usually can be found in the silver-plated copper wire or tubes in electrical installations.

What is Millberry copper and how is it obtained? Where can we find it?

Millberry copper is the most valuable type of copper in terms of recovery – it is characterised by high purity (99.9% copper), lack of coatings, insulation, varnish and contamination. Millberry copper can be obtained from, among others, copper cables and wires, as well as wire coils.

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