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U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1196-X

Flow Studies for Recycling Metal Commodities in the United States

Copper Recycling in the United States in 2004

By Thomas G. Goonan

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As one of a series of reports that describe the recycling of metal commodities in the United States, this report discusses the flow of copper from production through distribution and use, with particular emphasis on the recycling of industrial scrap (new scrap1) and used products (old scrap) in the year 2004. This materials flow study includes a description of copper supply and demand for the United States to illustrate the extent of copper recycling and to identify recycling trends. Understanding how materials flow from a source through disposition can aid in improving the management of natural resource delivery systems.

In 2004, the U.S. refined copper supply was 2.53 million metric tons (Mt) of refined unalloyed copper. With adjustment for refined copper exports of 127,000 metric tons (t) of copper, the net U.S. refined copper supply was 2.14 Mt of copper. With this net supply and a consumer inventory decrease of 9,000 t of refined copper, 2.42 Mt of refined copper was consumed by U.S. semifabricators (brass mills, wire rod mills, ingot makers, and foundries and others) in 2004. In addition to the 2.42 Mt of refined copper consumed in 2004, U.S. copper semifabricators consumed 853,000 t of copper contained in recycled scrap. Furthermore, 61,000 t of copper contained in scrap was consumed by noncopper alloy makers, for example, steelmakers and aluminum alloy makers.

Old scrap recycling efficiency for copper was estimated to be 43 percent of theoretical old scrap supply, the recycling rate for copper was 30 percent of apparent supply, and the new-scrap-to-old-scrap ratio for U.S. copper product production was 3.2 (76:24).

First posted February 2010

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Suggested citation:

Goonan, T.G., 2009, Copper recycling in the United States in 2004, chap. X of Sibley, S.R., Flow studies for recycling metal commodities in the United States: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1196–X, p. X1–X30, available only at





Global Geologic Occurrence of Copper

Production Processes

Primary Production Processes

Pyrometallurgical and Electrorefining Processes

Hydrometallurgy and Electrowinning Processes

Semifabrication Processes

Uses of Copper-Containing Materials

Copper End-Use by Economic Sector

Copper End-Use as Alloys and Chemicals

Copper Metal

Copper Chemicals

High-Copper Alloys

Copper-Aluminum and Aluminum-Copper Alloys

Copper-Nickel and Nickel-Copper Alloys

Copper-Tin Alloys

Copper-Zinc Alloys


Sources and Disposition of Copper Scrap

Old Scrap

Old Scrap Generated

Old Scrap Unrecovered

Old Scrap Recovered and Used

New Scrap

Scrap Recycling Efficiency

Scrap Receipts at U.S. Primary and Semifabrication Copper Producers

Processing of Copper Scrap

Copper Scrap Trade


References Cited


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