A major portion of copper end-use is pure copper. In comparison, iron and aluminium are predominantly used in their alloyed forms.
So, what is the percentage of pure copper in final use? The end-use dataset provides us a basis for an estimate. Out of the total 27.6 million tonnes of copper input into semis production, all lines represent pure copper with the exception of:
- Alloy tube - 0.3 million tonnes
- Alloy rods, bars and sections - 2.1 million tonnes
- Alloy plates, sheets and strips - 1.7 million tonnes
- Mechanical wire - 0.4 million tonnes
- Castings - 1.1 million tonnes
This yields 22.0 million tonnes of copper in its unalloyed form and 5.6 million tonnes of copper alloy products, representing respectively 80% and 20% of the copper market. In comparison, 90% of all metals are used in the form of alloys - largely alloys of iron, aluminium, nickel or titanium.
Like other metals, copper recycling also has some key challenges that we'll develop elsewhere in this section.
W. H. Dresher and D. R. Poirier, Metal Alloys and Mixtures: Definitions, Behaviour and Characteristics, ICME, 1997, page 1.
Last update: March 3, 2022