New Insight into the Sustainability of Copper Products
- 05 June 2012
- Company & Industry News
A major update of the European Copper Institute's Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of European
production provides additional insights into the sustainability of copper products. The 'cradle-to-gate' study, commissioned by the European Copper Institute (ECI), in collaboration with the industry's global Life Cycle Centre, managed by the Deutsches Kupferinstitut, in Dusseldorf, incorporates primary industry data from 90% of the EU's 3.8 million tonne copper market.
The study starts with the extraction of naturally occurring ores, continues through the production of copper metal (cathode) and finishes with the manufacture of semi-finished goods, such as wire, sheet and tube.
ECI's study finds that, although first stage ore extraction and processing are the main contributors to the 'cradle-to-gate' life cycle, impacts are often imposed by the location of ore deposits and the local electricity sources required to process them. Additionally, ensuring sufficient copper is available to meet society's future needs will require both increased levels of recovery and recycling, and substantial investments in primary production.
Finally, the impacts for individual semi-fabricated products are strongly dependent on the environmental profile of the copper cathode and the share of scrap used."Copper plays a very important role in the sustainable economic growth of the EU. One tonne of copper used in an electricity consuming component, or renewable thermal application, can save 200 tonnes of CO2 per year. As an industry, we're committed to working with all stakeholders to find new ways to reduce the impacts of copper production," says ECI's Chief Executive, John Schonenberger.
Copper is one of the world's most versatile materials, offering superior performance characteristics that make it essential across multiple industries, such as telecommunications, energy, transport, healthcare and construction. It is easy to work with, 100% recyclable, a highly efficient conductor of heat and electricity, corrosion-resistant and has powerful antimicrobial properties.
The release of this Life Cycle Assessment comes hot on the heels of the latest International Copper Study Group (ICSG) report that found 44.8% of the 5 million tonnes of copper used in Europe in 2010 had been sourced either from end-of-life products, or from offcuts from multiple downstream value chains.