Going Green? Why Copper Is The Right Choice

June 20, 2005


ORLANDO, FL— As the world's population continues to grow, increasing the demand on natural resources, many builders and consumers are realizing the importance of using recycled building materials wherever possible to create less impact on the land and to save energy.

Copper - a naturally occurring element - is one of the most recycled and recyclable of metals. In fact, copper is 100 percent recyclable, as are all its alloys, such as bronze and brass.

Some facts about recycled copper and copper alloys:

  • Enough copper is recycled annually to supply all the plumbing and architectural products for all new buildings - commercial and residential - constructed in the USA in a single year.
  • More than two-thirds of the copper used to make architectural sheet products and plumbing tube is derived from recycled scrap. Since 1864, about 66% (78.4 million tons) of all primary copper consumed in the United States has been returned and reused as scrap.
  • Excluding wire production, which requires newly refined copper, about 75% of all copper-based products are made from recycled copper.
  • Each year in this country, nearly as much copper is recovered from recycled material as is derived from newly mined ore.
  • You will never find copper scrap on a construction site or a landfill.
  • Copper tube and sheet products can be recycled over and over with no loss of their engineering properties.
  • The recycling of copper requires only 15% of the total energy otherwise consumed in mining, milling, smelting and refining.
  • Nearly all of the 700 billion pounds of copper mined worldwide to date (of the estimated 5.8 trillion pounds of known copper resources on earth) are still in circulation today.

Copper is also an important part of many new energy-saving technologies. Direct-exchange geothermal heating and cooling systems use copper tube to harvest a renewable resource - the earth's natural heat. This process can be used to heat and cool homes and small commercial buildings more efficiently, while helping the planet by reducing pollution-causing fossil fuel emissions.

Regions with long cooling seasons, such as the Sunbelt states, are ideal for geothermal applications that transfer rather than produce heat (or cool air).

"It is important for builders to realize the availability of systems that benefit the environment by conserving excess energy use - and benefit the homeowner by reducing energy bills significantly over the lifecycle of the home," explains Ken Geremia, Manager of Communications for the Copper Development Association, (CDA).

Copper is also one of the most resource-efficient roofing materials available today, according to the Center for Resourceful Building Technology (CRBTDB) located in Missoula, Montana. The Center praises copper roofing shingles in particular for durability, low maintenance and high-recycled content.

Naturally corrosion-resistant, copper roofs can last up to 100 years or longer, with the oldest known copper roof in the USA - historic Christ Church in Philadelphia - dating back to 1727. Like all copper roofing materials, copper shingles enjoy a long lifespan, outperforming asphalt shingles by some 70-85 years on average. For more facts about copper, visit www.copper.org.