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Resources 2017, 6(1), 6; doi:10.3390/resources6010006

Urban Mines of Copper: Size and Potential for Recycling in the EU

Department of Industrial Chemistry “Toso Montanari”, University of Bologna, 40136 Bologna, Italy
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Academic Editor: Xianlai Zeng
Received: 29 November 2016 / Revised: 18 January 2017 / Accepted: 18 January 2017 / Published: 24 January 2017
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Abstract

Copper is among the most important metals by production volume and variety of applications, providing essential materials and goods for human wellbeing. Compared to other world regions, Europe has modest natural reserves of copper and is highly dependent on imports to meet the domestic demand. Securing access to raw materials is of strategic relevance for Europe and the recycling of urban mines (also named “in-use stock”) is a significant mean to provide forms of secondary copper to the European industry. A dynamic material flow analysis model is applied to characterize the flows of copper in the European Union (EU-28) from 1960 to 2014 and to determine the accumulation of this metal in the in-use stock. A scrap balance approach is applied to reconcile the flow of secondary copper sent to domestic recycling estimated through the model and that reported by historic statistics. The results show that per capita in-use stock amounts at 160–200 kg/person, and that current end-of-life recycling rate is around 60%. The quantification of historic flows provides a measure of how the European copper cycle has changed over time and how it may evolve in the future: major hindrances to recycling are highlighted and perspectives for improving the current practices at end-of-life are discussed. View Full-Text
Keywords: industrial ecology; urban mining; scrap generation; metal recycling; in-use stock; resource conservation; copper reserve industrial ecology; urban mining; scrap generation; metal recycling; in-use stock; resource conservation; copper reserve
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Ciacci, L.; Vassura, I.; Passarini, F. Urban Mines of Copper: Size and Potential for Recycling in the EU. Resources 2017, 6, 6.

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