What are some benefits of recycling copper

The companies in the metal recycling industry make a significant contribution to the success of the energy transition and to climate protection


Metal recycling is active climate protection

There would be no energy transition without metal recycling and metal trading. The companies in the metal industry today make the decisive contribution to the transformation of Germany into one of the most energy and resource efficient countries in the world. And they make an enormous contribution to climate protection. The non-ferrous metal recycling industry, which is organized in the VDM, in which it provides the secondary raw material scrap in the highest quality for sustainable reuse, plays a significant role in this. This conserves resources and saves large amounts of CO2.

Without metals such as aluminum, copper, lead and others, for example, the energy transition would be inconceivable. Up to five tons of copper are built into the generator of a wind power plant alone, and up to eight tons of copper are built into a wind power plant together with other connecting cables. Even the raw copper has an average recycling share of around 45 percent in this country, since primary copper and recycled copper do not differ in quality. The production of one ton of recycled copper produces 62 percent less CO2 than the primary process.

By recycling non-ferrous metals, Germany emits around eight million tons less CO2 every year and is well on the way to resource-saving and more sustainable industrial production. The recycling of metals is active climate protection:


This means for the following metals in detail:

  • 1. Aluminum: An average of 66% recycled material is used in the production of aluminum. 75% of the aluminum ever mined is still in circulation. The advantage for the environment: ten tons of CO2 are saved for every tonne of recycled aluminum used - compared to the primary process, this corresponds to a saving of 85%. The production of a ton of aluminum from secondary materials only requires around 5% of the amount of energy that is required to produce the metal from bauxite.
  • 2. Copper: 35% of the copper produced worldwide comes from the recycling of copper scrap, in Europe around 40%, in Germany even 45%. Almost four fifths of the copper ever mined is still in circulation. The advantage for the environment: For every ton of copper made from recycled material, there is a considerable CO2 saving of 3.42 tons, which means 62% compared to the primary production process. In addition, depending on the material and process, recycling copper saves around 80% energy compared to production from primary material.
  • 3. Lead: 69% of the lead from Germany already comes from secondary raw materials. Advantage for the environment: Depending on the material and process, this means up to 80% energy savings compared to production from primary material


METALLE PRO KLIMA - an initiative of the WVM (forwarding to the website)


Urban mining: the city as a raw material mine

Urban mining - the recovery of raw materials from urban waste - plays an important role today in the sustainable use of metals.

Our cities are raw material stores of a different kind

Raw materials are a scarce commodity that is becoming more and more sought after due to the growing world population. It is all the more important to produce and consume sustainably and in a way that conserves resources. This also includes recovering raw materials from urban waste and recycling them in such a way that new products, buildings or systems can be created from them. This is called urban mining.

The recycling companies that are members of the VDM make an important contribution to recycling, sustainability and climate protection through their work. The entire range in the metal cycle is covered by the member companies of the VDM. This includes collection, logistics, processing, sorting and trading.


The importance of urban mining

An important future topic for VDM and its member companies is so-called urban mining. As more and more people live in cities, urbanization is advancing. Anthropogenic stocks, i.e. all products produced and used by humans, are growing steadily, while deposits of natural raw materials are shrinking. In the meantime, many resources are installed to a greater extent in cities or in consumer goods than can be found in raw material deposits around the world. Here one speaks of urban, i.e. urban, mines.

In order to promote sustainability and climate protection, it is important to develop these urban mines, to extract the raw materials hidden in them and, with their help, to promote a sustainable economic cycle. The following examples show the importance of urban mining: Germany's residential buildings alone contain 10.5 billion tons of mineral building materials. Around eight tons of copper are processed in a single wind turbine, and up to 30 tons in large offshore systems. Around 100 kilograms of copper are required to build an electric vehicle, around twice as much as a conventional mid-range car. The aluminum content in a car nowadays is around 160 kg of aluminum per car - a large part already comes from recycled aluminum. There is still unimagined potential, especially in households. Around two million tons of electrical and electronic scrap are generated in Germany every year. But only half of it is recycled. Consumers hoard the other half or throw them in the trash.

So far, the resources tied up in durable consumer goods have only been taken into account to a limited extent in recycling. Although Germany plays a pioneering role in metal recycling and the recycling rates are higher than anywhere else in the world, too much material is still lost in the known and used recycling processes. It is all the more important to exploit the potential of urban mining in order to compensate for this loss and promote sustainability. The VDM supports its member companies and sensitizes them to the potential of urban mining.

VDM magazine Urban Mining (PDF)