A Complete Guide To Recycling Your Scrap Copper, From Product To Pricing

Company News
| Nov 2022

Basics of recycling copper

Unlike many other metals, copper can be recycled multiple times without sacrificing performance or quality. This, along with the ease of grading copper, makes it a choice item for metal recyclers. Scrap copper comes from many items, including piping, tubing,  wire and electronics, as well as in sheet metal form. You can often transport your scrap copper directly to recyclers, but depending on the volume that you are dealing with it may be worthwhile to get a bin brought to your site. 

How is scrap copper pricing determined?

Scrap copper can be sold to recyclers and is priced by weight (usually on a per-pound basis). The pricing for copper can vary from day to day and is affected by many factors, so it is difficult to provide a standardized price. The value of scrap copper is primarily determined by its grade, which is based on the copper content, size, and condition of the scrap. Below are common copper grades, ordered by value.  

Bare Bright Copper (Wire only)

Bare bright copper is the most highly valued type of copper. It is made up of 99.9% copper and must be free of any impurities. The value of bare bright copper comes from its condition which reduces the amount of processing that must be done in order to successfully recycle it. Bare bright copper is used to make high-voltage power cables, and often comes insulated (so be sure to strip it to increase value). However, stripping it is not necessary as it  can be recycled either way. In order to qualify as bare bright copper, the individual strand within the conductor should be no finer than 14 gauge.

#1 Copper (Wire or pipe)

#1 copper is bare copper free of any contaminants such as coatings, soldering, or paint, or In some cases, #1 copper can have light traces of oxidation. #1 copper can be found in a few forms, including copper piping and bus bars, as well as insulated wires. Oxidized pipe is classified as #2. 

#2 Copper

#2 copper contains at least 94% pure copper, but may have some contaminants present. In some cases, #2 copper can be accepted in the form of scrap wire, bus bar and pipe or tubing. #2 copper is also present in electric motors and end-of-life vehicles. 

Light Copper (“#3 Copper”)

Light copper (sometimes referred to as “#3 copper”) is lower-grade copper and is unalloyed. It should generally have a copper content of 88-92%, and common sources include sheet copper, boilers, gutters, and radiators.

Copper-containing alloys

Copper-containing alloys can be recycled as well. The value of copper-containing alloys will depend on the type of alloy, and the form that it is in. Because the recycling process will be different for different types of alloys, it is especially important that copper-containing alloys are sorted in advance.

Copper recycling best practices

Proper sorting and preparation of your copper will ensure that you get the most value when bringing your copper to a recycler. Here are a few tips you can use to make sure you make the most for your metal.

  1. Sort your copper based on type and condition. By pre-sorting your copper, you can assist our staff in making grading and pricing easier.
  2. Check pipes for non-copper fittings and remove them in advance. Copper fittings on copper pipe may change grading due to solder. Fittings containing alloys or other metals should be removed to ensure maximum value. If you have the equipment to do so safely, you can remove or cut around non-copper components of piping to increase the grade of your copper.
  3. Strip copper wire to maintain the value of your scrap. Stripping the insulation from copper wire will reduce the amount of time required to process it and can result in your scrap being evaluated as a higher-grade copper. Stripping copper can be done by hand or with machines.
  4. Do not burn copper wire – ever. Burning copper wire is illegal in many places. It releases toxic fumes and taints your copper, which reduces its value and lowers the efficiency of the recycling process. It’s also bad for the environment. 

In short, recycling scrap copper is a straightforward and environmentally-friendly process that will allow you to make money back on old copper. Preparing your scrap in advance is easy and will ensure that you get maximum value.

If you are looking to recycle scrap copper in Edmonton or need a quote, reach out to our experts